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.”
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.