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Youth jail protest comes to Mayor Murray’s North Capitol Hill neighborhood

Ed Murray’s North Capitol Hill home Tuesday night was the target for a group of protesters calling for the mayor and City Hall to stop construction of the county’s planned upgraded Children and Family Justice Center on 12th Ave.

A group of around 50 protesters lined 10th Ave E near E Boston near the mayor’s home to call for a last-ditch effort to reject what is expected to be approval of city construction permits for the facility, a decision the protesters say is slated for Thursday:

No New Youth Jail Action Alert
Call the Mayor, County Executive, and City Council Today!
**Mayor Murray, Dow Constantine, the City of Seattle, and King County intend to give our children and families a new children jail for the holidays.**
On December 22nd the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection will release its decision about whether it will grant permits to King County to build a new children’s jail in Seattle.

Wednesday night, protesters chanted for no new youth jail and reminded the mayor they know where he lives. “We’re here outside of Mayor Murray’s house to let him know that we’re not going away, we are paying attention, and he can’t do something like allow his city government to pass this permit right before the holidays,” protest organizer Bana Abera said. “Obviously, we are paying attention.”

“We want to let him know that we are vigilant. And especially with him being up for reelection, we are going to make sure that he knows, if he doesn’t stop this jail, this will be the main issue of his campaign.”

Earlier this week, Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine were targeted by protesters at the announcement designating Washington as a “hate free state.”

Protesters concerned about racial disparity in the justice system and frustrated over building a brand new facility that they say perpetuates it have turned to targeting the ongoing permitting process for the facility as the various paper trails have been worked out by officials to construct the $210 million project planned to replace the old youth jail still in use near 12th and Alder.

Black youth in King County are roughly six times more likely than white youth to face a judge in juvenile court. And while the number of youth referred to juvenile court has been falling for years, the bulk of that benefit has gone to whites. In 2014, there were 467 admissions to youth detention for probation violations — 42% of those were for black teens and children.

The new facility has been shaped for changes in the approach to youth detention. Already planned for 144 beds vs. the current facility’s 210, Constantine slashed another 32 beds from the plan in 2015. Officials say the true capacity will be even fewer — with room for less than 100. The facility will also include ten courtrooms for criminal legal hearings involving youth.

In February of 2015, the King County Council approved the construction contract to build the new facility following a 2012 levy vote to approve the funding. In 2014, the City Council paved the way for building the new youth dentition center with an 8-1 approval of the land use bill to allow construction on the site. Kshama Sawant cast the lone opposing vote.

UPDATE 12/22/2016: The decision on the permit that potentially knocks down yet another milestone on the way to construction has been published along with the conditions placed on the project to mitigate environmental impacts. The SDCI also approved a series of proposed “modifications to development standards” requested by the county due to factors like security needs and a plan to enhance Alder with “features that welcome pedestrians.” The full document is below.

Mayor Murray, meanwhile, issued a statement Wednesday announcing he would not act to block the permit, saying he recognizes that “significant racial disparities exist in our city” and that his goal is to “keep all young people from entering the criminal justice system but that he could not intervene in “any permitting decision.”

The City of Seattle issues nearly 800 master use permits annually. Those permits are issued by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) according to technical criteria having to do solely with land use and environmental issues. King County applied for a master use permit for the new Children and Family Justice Center, with a decision from SDCI to be announced shortly. King County has designed and is funding the project, which resulted from a 2012 levy supported by County voters. The Office of the Mayor cannot intervene in any permitting decision, including this one, as it is a technical decision based on the County’s application. As the City Hearing Examiner’s decision on Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle clarified, the City must base any permit decision on the technical design facts in a permit application, and not on any policy considerations. I recognize that significant racial disparities exist in our City and the ultimately our goal is to keep all young people from entering the criminal justice system and I will continue to direct City resources to ending these disparities in foundational areas such as education, employment, and criminal justice.”

Opponents have until January 5th to file an appeal.

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12 thoughts on “Youth jail protest comes to Mayor Murray’s North Capitol Hill neighborhood

  1. Sux boorish behavior – going to the mayot’s house! I’d ignore these individuals on that basis alone. As to the disproportionate numbers, how about providing data on rates of single patent homes of kids in town by race and other cultural variables that might impact criminal rates.
    But most relevantly tell us which kids in the facility don’t belong there, with details on their crimes? Statistics can be cherry picked. The real world of individuals is far more useful.
    Perhaps these protesters could redirect their energies towards working with at risk kids before they end up in the system?
    As it is, they come off as rude, naive idiots.

    • What makes you these people haven’t already done their research and aren’t working directly in their communities?

      If you are so “data driven,” why don’t you do your research? Why is incarceration always the answer? Have you heard of restorative justice?

  2. Yes I have heard of restorative justice. And it is clear that every youth offender is not in jail. My point is that there is a need sadly for such facilities. Violent offenders, repeat offenders, sexual predators. There is a need to have a place to safely put kids who have been arrested pre-trial. We don’t want to mix them in a general population. If emptying out the facility is not an option, and I am certain it is not, then the question is whether the current facility is better than a new one. I have not been inside it, but have been in jails and prisons. There is a difference between a stale, dank place vs. a newer and upgraded one.

    It is not my job to do the research on the issue as I have not taken it on. Rather those who wish to invade the privacy of the mayor (who I am not a major fan of but believe in decorum and boundaries), need to do better than claiming racial disproportion.

    All I know is that if a teenager or kid, say age 10 or 16 assaults, burgles, steals a car, murders, rapes, robs or any other similar action that people sadly do – that upon arrest they need to go somewhere before bail, and somewhere upon sentencing. And I assume the courts take all sorts of things into consideration when sentencing, including prior history.

    My point is that it would be helpful to put a human face on the youth in the facility, crime, time, family circumstances, priors and the like – and let’s all see if then we would substantially disagree on how cases are being handled.

    By the way, read about restorative justice. It is a process and not a substitution for incarceration. I’m all for it. It takes place here and if done effectively in some situations it can reduce recidivism by engaging victim(s) and perpetrators. See:

    I do know that the majority of offenders in the adult world, about 90%, are released from prison. I assume that the numbers for kids are at least as high. Nobody is suggesting that incarceration is the uniform answer and every day kids in Seattle and elsewhere commit crimes that do not result in jail, or if they do, the confinement is of a limited duration and then they are on probation, parole or similar less restricted situation. But you are making a broad generalization that falls on its face by failing to get granular. We’d need a much bigger place if jail were THE answer.

    Please get your facts straight before laying into me. I know what I am talking about. Again, tell me some stories about specific abuses of kids being placed in the facility today or in recent years who do not belong there. And I know that there are other longer term places for those who get long sentences. This is a short-term facility.

    Perhaps a reader who actually works there or in the system can provide some details, mindful of what is confidential or not, about why we need or don’t need the new facility or any facility at all.

    Want to really help? Promote intact families, volunteer as a guardian ad litem and protect the very young from incompetent parents, be a big brother/big sister, engage in any number of preventive efforts in the community and school. By the time a kid lands in this facility, failure of the family, system and individual can be inferred. Externalizing and blaming others is easier than suggesting that families, communities and the kids themselves have some iota of personal responsibility.

  3. We certainly cannot close our eyes to the fact that some, even if it is a small number, of minors will commit crimes that require them to be separated from society for a time. Would it be better to have to house them with adults….

    • Perhaps the demonstrators would be willing to open their own homes to house juvenile offenders – like a community-based homestay diversion program.

  4. If you read the actual list of offenses that get a youth booked into the youth detention facility (look it up yourself) a young person has to do something pretty violent, abusive, etc to be booked there. I am all for diversion court, restorative justice programs etc. but if someone harms another they need to be in actual jail and putting youth in with the adult population in an incarceration setting is a non-starter. If you have ever had business at the current youth detention center yo are aware it needs to be replaced and modernized. If you have ever had business there you would be aware of the mentoring, social service programs, volunteer assistance etc offered to youth there as well as mandatory school on site. Official “activism deflates itself against facts and real people’s real lives. Millions upon millions of people grow up economically disadvantaged and do not commit violent crimes. But local incarcerated youth would benefit from a modern facility.

  5. Not one person is saying that some kids dont need to be locked up. The question is whether it needs to be $210M or could we better use those funds to prevent the crimes in the first place and keep kids out of jail. JFC

    • Thank you!!

      No one can help me understand why we need to invest $210M in dramatically increasing the number of youth jail beds, despite the fact that that youth incarceration rates in King County have fallen over the past few years.

      Could it possibly be about gentrification? Making the jail more attractive to upwardly mobile whites to further push POC out of “Squire Park”?

      And no one seems to bat an eye about the clear racial disparities in youth incarceration. If you build the beds, the county will fill them – with black and brown children.

    • that argument would have had to be had and won in 2012 when the funding was secured though.

      but i don’t think your claim is right: no youth detention is just that: no kid should be locked up. dunno how to read it any other way.

    • If you read the article it indicates that number of beds is in fact decreasing and the new building is a replacement for, not a supplement to, the old facility…

      “Already planned for 144 beds vs. the current facility’s 210, Constantine slashed another 32 beds from the plan in 2015. Officials say the true capacity will be even fewer — with room for less than 100.”

      Do you not think that giving the kids who really do require this facility better conditions is worth while? Gentrification? Really… if that was the desired end the facility would be moving out of the neighborhood entirely – we’d ship these kids off somewhere where it would be hard for their families to even see them..

  6. The funding for this project was approved by a vote of the people. Democracy in action!

    Some juvenile offenders need to be in jail…..that is an undisputable fact. The new facility will be a nicer, more humane place for them to serve their time. Those who are objecting need to get real.

  7. One of the chants at the protest (apparently) was “we know where you live,” which is why there was an SPD vehicle sitting in front of his house all night.

    That was pretty not cool.