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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:

The Seattle City Council has already taken steps in the right direction. We urge the King County Council and, especially King County Executive Dow Constantine, to be on the right side of history by terminating this racist new youth jail project and committing to working with the most impacted communities to develop and resource a just and effective network for supporting our children, youth and families.

In a statement, Mayor Ed Murray said the city would not defend the issuance of the permit in front of the Hearing Examiner — *if* the county chooses to withdraw its application. Despite the unlikely scenario, Murray’s statement professed support for many of EPIC’s ideals. Addressing systemic racial disparities, including those in our criminal justice system, continues to be a priority for Mayor Murray’s administration,” the statement read. “We remain specifically focused on better connecting our youth with jobs and career pathways and supporting all local efforts to expand alternatives to incarceration such as Family Intervention and Restorative Services and Youth LINC, to offer coordinated service to at-risk youth.”

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“Let us have our children,” said activist and organizer Dominique Davis. “This is a movement and could carry on for years and years. And change other things in the system. Not just building a jail. But fixing other things in the system.”

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

During Wednesday’s conference and rally, Senait Brown, co-chair at EPIC, called out her home county and reminded those assembled that things aren’t going to get any easier under President Trump.

“We are people in this community that are organized, that are clear, that are aware of how racism exists today and it is functioning in our own Martin Luther King County,” Brown said.

“We are entering into an administration that is not just talking about holding up institutional and structural racism,” Brown said, “but they are talking about programs, policies, procedures that will railroad our children into the grave.”

“All those youth are black and brown,” she said.

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RWK
RWK
5 years ago

This small but vocal group seems to think that all incarcerated youth are actually innocent victims of racism, which is a ridiculous assumption. Some of them have committed heinous crimes. Doesn’t the group realize that they will end up in an adult jail if this project is stopped?…..which it will not be. The youth jail will be built and it will be a great improvement over the current one.

bb
bb
5 years ago
Reply to  RWK

The project won’t and can’t be stopped because it is sorely needed for reasons you have stated.

Zach L
Zach L
5 years ago
Reply to  RWK

they specifically said they want that if a young person kills or tries to kill. they’d rather them in adult jail than a youth jail.

David
David
5 years ago

The Anti-Juvie Facility Activists are getting ridiculous…… we have one of the lowest youth incarceration rates in the Nation – and the new facility will have less jail capacity then the old one – even though the County population is growing by leaps and bounds…….. The County has existing programs to assist youth and try to assist kids in Housing, Education and Drug Treatment with plans to expand them — I work for King County and I periodically work in Juvenile Court. I can tell you the Judges already go way way way out of their way to offer alternatives of incarceration even for some of the most serious offenses already………

KO
KO
5 years ago
Reply to  David

By the time these kids get to juvenile court, it’s too late. If we can spend that $210 million to reduce class sizes, increase after school programs and outreach to families of kids who are living in extreme poverty and in areas where there aren’t adequate services, we can prevent them from ever getting to that point. There are some existing services, but they are all overwhelmed and underfunded. They could use that money to a much better end than incarceration.

Brian
Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  David

@KO, where do you propose we house juveniles after they commit assault, sexual assault, armed robbery, etc.? You certainly don’t believe these types of juvenile crimes will disappear do you?

Parent who wants his kid to get a job
Parent who wants his kid to get a job
5 years ago

Why did we raise the minimum wage so high if we want youth to get jobs in Seattle? Or maybe they are supposed to go to other cities?

Paul
Paul
5 years ago

A false assumption is asserted by some who want to infer that all young people are at risk from the criminal justice system. All the people of color I know in the CD who have kids have good kids who are staying out of trouble and this crosses ALL income lines. That said, the thing that is conveniently ignored by activists are the programs and classes offered through the detention center and all the people who work hard and who volunteer to provide these youth with assistance. Plus the fact that you have to do something pretty significantly bad to land in juvi here in the first place. Having been inside the existing facility on business I agree we need a new and upgraded facility for the benefit of youth going through this function.

ltfd
ltfd
5 years ago

Build it!