Social Justice Monday: Making a 180 in Juvenile Justice

Social Justice Monday–March 21, 2016

Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant

Every year, thousands of juveniles in King County enter the criminal justice system. They are cut off from their families, their education is disrupted, and they are often exposed to further trauma and violence— which ultimately harms their development and has lifelong negative consequences.  Community-based alternatives to incarceration are much less expensive and more effective in reducing crime and recidivism.

Through a partnership between the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and other community organizations, the 180 Program gives first-time juvenile offenders the opportunity to avoid incarceration and make a 180 turn from the path they were headed. Through a combination of large-group presentations, engaging ice-breaker activities, and small-group personal discussions, workshop participants learn to make better choices.  The program uses an innovative and evidence-based approach where speakers from the youth’s own communities, many who have been through similar situations, inspire them to take a different path.  Seattle University School of Law has been a partner by providing free space for these monthly workshops.  To date, over 1500 youth have been diverted from incarceration by going through the 180 program.

This social Justice Monday King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office Chief of Staff, Leesa Manion ‘96, 180 Program Directors Terrell Dorsey and Dominique Davis, and 180 Program Graduate Cierra Conley, discussed the program and the importance of diverting juveniles out of the criminal justice system. 


Interested in learning more? Here are some related books and a movie available in the Law Library:

Justice for Kids: Keeping Kids out of the JuvenileJustice System

By Nancy E. Dowd

LAW-4th Floor (KF9779.J87 2011)

From the Publisher:

Children and youth become involved with the juvenile justice system at a significant rate. While some children move just as quickly out of the system and go on to live productive lives as adults, other children become enmeshed in the system, developing deeper problems and or transferring into the adult criminal justice system. Justice for Kids is a volume of work by leading academics and activists that focuses on ways to intervene at the earliest possible point to rehabilitate and redirect—to keep kids out of the system—rather than to punish and drive kids deeper.

Justice for Kids presents a compelling argument for rethinking and restructuring the juvenile justice system as we know it. This unique collection explores the system’s fault lines with respect to all children, and focuses in particular on issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation that skew the system. Most importantly, it provides specific program initiatives that offer alternatives to our thinking about prevention and deterrence, with an ultimate focus on keeping kids out of the system altogether. 


Burning Down the House: The end of Juvenile Prison

By Nell Bernstein

LAW-3rd Floor (HV9104.B4243 2014)

From the Publisher:

In what the San Francisco Chronicle called “an epic work of investigative journalism that lays bare our nation’s brutal and counterproductive juvenile prisons and is a clarion call to bring our children home,” Nell Bernstein eloquently argues that there is no good way to lock up a child. Making the radical argument that state-run detention centers should be abolished completely, her “passionate and convincing” (Kirkus Reviews) book points out that our system of juvenile justice flies in the face of everything we know about what motivates young people to change.

Called “a devastating read” by Truthout, Burning Down the House received a starred Publishers Weekly review and was an In These Times recommended summer read. Bernstein’s heartrending portraits of young people abused by the system intended to protect and “rehabilitate” them are interwoven with reporting on innovative programs that provide effective alternatives to putting children behind bars.

The result is a work that the Philadelphia Inquirer called “a searing indictment and a deft strike at the heart of America’s centuries-old practice of locking children away in institutions”—a landmark book that has already launched a new national conversation.


Juvenile Offenders: A Study of Disproportionality and Recidivism

By Nella Lee Washington

LAW-3rd Floor (HV9105.W2L44 2001)

A study published by the State of Washington Sentencing Guidelines Commission. The study is somewhat dated, but the information is still relevant.

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