I watched the flow of children through my courtroom. But it took some time for
me to actually understand the interplay (complicity, if you will) of two primary feeders
into the Pipeline: the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system. Let me
tell you about Frankie who first came before me at the age of 10 (now presumed to
have the capacity to commit a crime). He was charged with Assault 4 (a misdemeanor).
Frankie was born into the child welfare system. Removed from his mother at birth,
Frankie spent his first eight years moving from foster home to foster home, getting
angrier and more depressed. His angry outbursts landed him in a “therapeutic foster
home” placement for kids with behavioral problems. Of course once he was placed,
he continued to demonstrate his behavioral issues. He hit staff. The police were
called. He was arrested and charges were filed. It is clear that the therapeutic foster
home is using the courts to “enforce the rules” and provide much needed respite
care. But this created a criminal record for Frankie. Over the next five years, this pattern
repeats itself several times. I last saw Frankie six months ago. He presented on two
counts of Robbery 2 (felony charges). His lengthy criminal history (created from his
behavior in placement) counts to increase his score for the purpose of sentencing.
Frankie was facing 206–258 weeks in juvenile state “prison.” By the time he is
released, Frankie will be almost 18. He has literally been moved through the
Pipeline from the cradle—next stop, the adult prison system.
–Chief Judge Patricia Clark of the Juvenile
Division of King County Superior Court, Seattle, Washington