Allen Nance confirmed to oversee the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention

By Noah Haglund, DAJD Communications Specialist

Allen Nance will bring more than three decades of criminal justice experience as he takes on some of our region’s most important public safety issues.

The Metropolitan King County Council voted Tuesday, Sept. 6 to confirm Nance as the Director of the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD). The vote formally approves his leadership of the County’s jails, youth detention facility, and community corrections programs.

He had been serving as Director-designee for just over two months.

“There’s a lot of difficult work and many complex tasks ahead,” Nance said. “However, I am energized and confident that with the support and commitment of our dedicated and hardworking staff, and in partnership other agency and community stakeholders, we will continue to make great progress as we positively impact the lives of every person in our custody.”

DAJD has about 900 budgeted positions across five divisions.

Nance joined King County in late 2019, when he was hired to run DAJD’s Juvenile Division. Within three months, he was overseeing a move by the entire division into a brand-new facility at the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center. A month after that, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

More recently, County Executive Dow Constantine asked Nance to lead the planning efforts toward the closure of the youth detention facility by 2025.

This spring, Constantine named Nance to succeed retiring DAJD Director John Diaz. He praised Diaz’s long history of public service in King County and Seattle, as he welcomed Nance to the new role.

“We are fortunate to have another experienced and committed leader within our ranks to continue the department’s vital work, and I thank Allen Nance for stepping into this role as we move forward,” he said at the time.

Ahead of the Sept. 6 confirmation vote, Council Chair Claudia Balducci and her colleagues gave Nance a strong endorsement, while also noting the realities he will have to confront.

“Managing the County’s three secure detention facilities is one of the most sensitive and difficult services that King County provides to our residents,” Balducci said. “As we struggle to come out of the pandemic, our jails and youth detention are facing staffing challenges, increased bookings as violent crime increases in the community, and the continuing imperative to embrace reform that points toward a safer, more just future in a system that has seen endemic racial disparities for decades. These challenging times call for expert and thoughtful leadership, which is why we are fortunate to have an experienced new director in Allen Nance. I welcome him to this new role and offer my commitment to work with the Department to meet the critical challenges facing us.”

Nance started his career in Illinois, where he rose to leadership positions at probation departments in DuPage and Cook counties. He later went to work for San Francisco, leading justice policy efforts and later serving as the city’s chief juvenile probation officer.

In King County, his immediate priorities include rebuilding operations that have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages. He is focused on improving safety for people in the department’s care.

Over the medium and longer term, he is working to implement priorities outlined by elected officials to address equity and systemic racism. This includes creating a more therapeutic environment for people in custody, and expanding programs and services that, when appropriate, can offer alternatives to incarceration.

Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles praised Nance as a great fit to run the department. “I am very pleased to support Allen Nance’s appointment as Director of the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention,” Kohl-Welles said. “In all my interactions with him in his former position as Division Director of DAJD’s Juvenile Division, Director Nance has demonstrated kindness, creativity, honesty, ingenuity, and determination. Those are all qualities that I know will serve him well as he takes over leadership of a department that has openly been struggling with staffing and operational challenges as a result of the pandemic. Thank you, Director Nance, for your willingness to serve, and I look forward to working with you as you bring about needed changes in the department.”