skip to main content

Needed: Black mentors to keep kids out of jail. Comeback stories a plus

Alternative sentencing programs have reduced the number of kids in King County’s juvenile jail, but they’re still disproportionately black.

The county council’s Law and Justice Committee got an update this week on efforts to address the problem.

Jason Clark, equity and justice advocate for King County Superior Court, told the committee the needle is slowly moving in the right direction.

Among the successes are community partnerships like the Federal Way Youth Action Team, which provides outreach to at risk kids and their families.

Willard Jimerson, the program’s coordinator, told the committee about the trauma he hears about from the youth he works with.

“Every time I see this young man, he has a 30 and a 40," Jimerson said. "Do you know what that means? He has a 40-caliber pistol with a 30-round clip in it. And he’s afraid to drive on a Metro bus. He’s been shot at, and I have to provide support services around him, but he’s been traumatized. He’s been shot at, his best friend was killed a couple weeks ago."

Jimerson said education and job opportunities aren’t nearly as helpful if kids aren’t involved in meaningful, culturally appropriate therapeutic relationships.

When he’s working with kids, Jimerson draws from his own involvement in the criminal justice system. But he said there needs to be more people like him doing this work. He told the committee there are still many service providers who don’t understand.

The key, he said, is building more committed and enduring local partnerships.