‘No New Youth Jail’ in King County? Services, ‘preventative programming,’ and peace circles

Protesters at a December rally against the planned juvenile justice center

Protesters at a December rally against the planned juvenile justice center

The League of Women Voters presented three panelists with the overarching question Thursday night — “How do we get to zero detention in King County?”

Through a series of questions focused on the $200 million project to build a new juvenile legal and detention center on 12th Ave, systemic racism, and the goal of zero detention for youth, panelists agreed there’s a lot of changes that can be made to incarcerate fewer young people in King County.

The three panelists had mixed opinions on whether or not the new detention center is a good idea.

Wesley Saint Clair said he struggles with where he stands on the project — the current building is in poor shape and costs more each year to maintain, the King County Superior Court judge said, but also the needs of the youth staying there aren’t being met. Ideally, there would be smaller facilities throughout the county, but that’s not feasible.

“We know incarceration is not a cure to much of anything,” he said. The right services need to be put in place to help youth before they end up in the detention center. Continue reading

‘Zero detention’ — Forum to discuss what ‘No New Youth Jail’ would mean

Protesters at a March Black Lives Matters rally (Image: CHS)

Protesters at a March Black Lives Matters rally (Image: CHS)

King County is moving ahead with its downscaled but still more than $200 million project to build a new juvenile legal and detention center at the site of the current facility at 12th and Alder even as it makes the case that it is moving away from traditional “youth jail” justice. Thursday night, the League of Women’s Voters will convene a panel for a public discussion on the “zero detention” movement:

Forum: How Do We Get to Zero Youth Detention in King County?

In mid-March, CHS reported on the county’s efforts to show its changing approach to juvenile crime and justice as the new facility moves toward construction. According to officials, the current 12th and Alder facility held an average daily population in 2016 of 51 juveniles, down 16% from 2015, and an even steeper drop from 1998 when the facility routinely held more than 150 people. Meanwhile, another 17-20 juveniles on average are held in the adult facility in Kent, owing to regulations surrounding their age and the crimes involved.

The new facility is slated to go on the same campus as the existing juvenile justice center along 12th Ave about a block south of the Seattle University campus. King County has been looking to replace the courthouse and administrative buildings for years, and is building a new jail along with them. The recession of 2008 held up plans for the expensive project, but in 2012, the county put a roughly $210 million levy before voters which passed by a 55-45 margin. The existing detention center has 212 beds. The new one could have up to 144, though County Executive Dow Constantine said he’d like it to hold to no more than 112.

“No New Youth Jail,” meanwhile, continues to be a rallying cry for activists and mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver has made the cause a major element of her campaign to unseat incumbent Ed Murray.

Nikkita Oliver’s run for mayor: housing, education, and ending the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’

It's official. Nikkita Oliver turned in her paperwork Monday to enter the race to be Seattle's mayor

It’s official. Nikkita Oliver turned in her paperwork Monday to enter the race to be Seattle’s mayor

The newly formed Peoples Party of Seattle is putting all-in-one educator, attorney, spoken-word poet, and activist Nikkita Oliver forward as its candidate to take on Mayor Ed Murray for this year’s election.

Oliver’s decision to run and help launch the “community-centered grassroots political party” came after the election of President Donald Trump.

“I didn’t want to stand in a place of powerlessness,” Oliver said.

After the election, she started meeting people for coffee, talking about values and concerns. Oliver talked with the “aunties and elders” in her community about how people running on the same platforms yield the same results and maybe it’s time to try something different.

Over time, those conversations lead to the collective decision that “we need to transform our local government.”

The party formed and encouraged Oliver to run against Murray.

“I take what my community says to me to heart,” Oliver told CHS. “… I’m not going to act like I entered into this with ease. I take it very seriously.” Continue reading

Making case for new justice center, King County says juvenile incarceration down 16%

King County officials sought to shift the narrative surrounding the new juvenile justice center during a March 10 meeting by pointing to a 16% drop in overall juvenile incarcerations and a steeper drop among youth of color.

For the past few months, talk around the center has been about whether or not there should even be a youth jail. A group called Ending the Prison Industrial Complex has filed appeals and staged protests, even going so far as to demonstrate in front of Mayor Ed Murray’s house in opposition to the new facility. The group’s latest gambit, an appeal to the hearing examiner, was recently rejected.

Now, the county is hoping to spread a message of its own. At the recent meeting, leaders in the county’s juvenile justice system laid out progress they say they have made toward the goals for which EPIC is agitating.

Friday’s presentation also made the case that the planned facility has the lowest number of cells possible. Continue reading

Mayor calls for ‘second look’ at plan for new King County Youth Justice Center

Maybe taking the protest to Mayor Ed Murray’s North Capitol Hill neighborhood really did make a difference. When it comes to a proposed new youth jail at 12th and Alder, the mayor is now woke:

I have learned that since the passage of the County-wide levy in 2012, a consensus has grown among juvenile justice experts that incarceration is harmful and counterproductive. Incarceration decreases the chances of high school completion, increases risk of recidivism, and is associated with worse physical and mental health outcomes for youth. Due to the racial disproportionately that exists in the youth detention center, these injuries are concentrated in the Black community.

The Stranger broke the news Monday on a letter from Murray to King County officials calling for a “second look” at the controversial 12th Ave project.

“While I recognize that an immediate transition to zero youth incarceration is unrealistic, I have some concerns about the current plans for the detention facility given our joint goals of working toward zero detention,” Murray writes. “The landscape of research on best practices and intervention strategies points to mounting evidence against incarcerating young people that was not known at the time this facility was being planned. This new evidence, the continued decline of incarcerated youth in our community, and the need for considering public concerns all point toward reexamining aspects of this facility.” Continue reading

Activists make one last stand against 12th Ave youth jail project

Protest — including a December rally in Mayor Ed Murray’s home North Capitol Hill neighborhood — has not swayed the process, construction permits have been issued for the county’s $210 million project planned to replace the old youth jail still in use at 12th and Alder pending a two-week appeal period. Not surprisingly, an appeal — likely a last ditch effort to stop project — has been filed.

Activists including the Ending The Prison Industrial Complex group leading the fight against the new facility were at the site Wednesday to announce the latest attempt to curb the construction.

“We are united under a vision to create a brighter future for our youth and our region that does not include incarceration of children, but instead invests in community to support, educate and empower our youth,” a statement on the appeal from EPIC and lawyer Knoll Lowney reads: Continue reading