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No New Youth Jail protesters shut down 12th Ave work site

With reporting by Alex Garland

Activists seeking a halt on construction of the new King County’s Children and Family Justice Center brought their protest to the work site Monday morning.

The construction site protest blocked work entrances at the 12th and Alder site and marked what organizers said was the beginning of a “People’s Moratorium on construction at the site.”

“We have fought this fight on many fronts -– in the courts, in county and city council chambers, in the press, and on the streets,” one activist said in a statement posted by a coalition opposing the new facility. “At every point, the county has refused to listen, so today, we’re stopping the construction with our bodies.”

The announcement did not describe the group’s plans for continuing to block the work site gates. Some protesters were chained together. Inside the fences, some work continued. Police were at the site and monitoring the situation with more units being dispatched in the area.

Contracting company Howard S. Wright is leading construction at the site. King County officials have not yet responded to our inquiries on the status of work today at the site and have not yet responded publicly to the call for a moratorium on construction.

The protest was being broadcast live on the group’s Facebook page.

The action follows a protest earlier this month that targeted King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Administration building as activists blocked 4th Ave before clearing out in time for the afternoon commute — but not before raising the ire of Seattle commuter culture.

Construction of the project has continued despite a legal decision that thrust a major component of the center’s $200 million-plus budget into question. King County petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the decision, the Seattle PI reported last week, but the court has not yet said it will consider the case.

The new facility is under construction on the same campus as the existing juvenile justice center along 12th Ave about a block south of Seattle University. The 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 the county passed a roughly $210 million levy in 2012. CHS reported here on the county’s efforts to show its changing approach to juvenile crime and justice. In 2016, the proportion of black youth in jail decline from 58.5% to 49.9%, county officials say. According to U.S. Census figures, about 7% of the county population is black and another 5% identified a multiracial.

King County plans for the new facility to be open by 2020.

UPDATE: King County Executive Dow Constantine issued a statement on the protest:

I am aware of the activities at the Children and Family Justice Center, and I have read the recent correspondence from the No New Youth Jail Coalition. We continue to invite all those interested in youth welfare and juvenile justice to join a full dialogue with King County and our community partners as we do the difficult work to further reduce the number of youth in detention.

I do not believe keeping kids in the current decrepit and disrespectful facility is the right solution. Moving young people to adult jail also takes us in the wrong direction. In fact, I issued an Executive Order directing that all young people charged as adults be moved to the juvenile facility so that they can receive more age-appropriate services and programming.

While we complete the CFJC, we will continue to modify the new, smaller detention consistent with a public health approach to support youth and families before, during and after they are involved in the justice system. I have accepted an invitation to debate this issue on the Seattle Channel, and I look forward to a lively exchange of views.

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11 thoughts on “No New Youth Jail protesters shut down 12th Ave work site

  1. When ten people show up, it doesn’t exactly appear there’s much solidarity going on. Looks like the same small group of kids who paralyzed downtown a couple weeks ago – so they don’t have much momentum, either. If these kids had started with something viable like “let’s make sure the new facility effectively serves Seattle youth,” then they may actually influence change.

    The old jail was a rat-infested armpit designed to be a jail – the new one is designed to be a resource center first, and a detention center second. Which is why Seattle voters overwhelmingly supported its construction.

    Upset, entitled anarchist kids screaming about their latest lost cause: not news.

    • i would add, “At every point, the county has refused to listen…”

      or, the county HAS listened – to the majority who think this new facility is needed and should be constructed. at some point these protestors need to understand they are in the minority opinion; otherwise there’d be way more people supporting their cause.

    • You are not the arbiter of what is news and what isn’t until you start your own news outlet and cover (or don’t cover) whatever you want.

    • I’m curious as to where the protesting group believes youthful offenders should be housed? Kids accused of violent crimes who are a danger to the community (Tuba Man killers come to mind) should be housed where? If you get rid of juvie they’ll be housed in the vacant west wing at the King County Jail with jail guards whose whole training is geared toward adults. A far, far less kind, less gentle option than being housed at juvie. I’d also ask where the protesters believe all the services to families operating at the current building be moved to. Do they have a proposal for these issues?

    • It would seem they would like to decriminalize…

      “Incarceration, racist policing, immigration enforcement and child “welfare” programs are tearing our communities apart. We believe that these punishment based strategies have failed and we are working together to move our region in a new direction—toward meeting everyone’s needs for housing, education, healthcare, food and justice, and stopping the cycle of poverty, criminalization and violence.” -from their website

  2. So where exactly do these protestors suggest we lock up timmy the 15 year old rapist? An adult prison?

  3. Oh for god’s sake! It’s truly laughable that they are protesting the construction of a building that is well underway, and which has been approved by a majority of voters. They don’t seem to know when to quit.

  4. Come on everyone! Give these people a little more credit. Sure, many think it’s laughable that their outward motives appear to think they can shut down the already-underway construction of the new resource center.

    But, society needs people like this to dream, and be the voice of the opposition.

    They are protesting for some really good things. Incarceration rates are astronomical in this country. Sentences are harsher and incarceration rates are higher for POCs as compared to their white peers. Youth sentencing is much more harsh in the US than in other countries, and the rate of recidivism is out of control.

    What a better place than to get these types of messages out…than the construction gates at an under construction jail! I say, bravo!

    • “They are protesting for some really good things”

      Yesterday, the leader of this fringe group called for the abolition of the police force.

      And we thought the MAGA people were crazy…

    • Sentences are only harsher for violent crimes. As in GUN VIOLENCE (sound familiar?)

      Sentences for non-violent crimes, drug crimes and property crimes have never been more lenient. Diversion programs for at-risk youth are also more prolific than ever.

      Get your facts straight and you may also stop enabling so much criminal activity.

    • @Andy: I don’t think you read Bravo’s post correctly. I don’t think Bravo ever made any claim about the harshness of sentences based on the type of crime, so I don’t know why you go down some rabbit hole of an argument there.

      Bravo is claiming that incarceration rates are extremely high. They are in fact among the highest in the world and by far the highest in the developed world:

      Bravo also claimed that incarceration rates are higher for POC than whites:

      Finally, Bravo claimed that recidivism rates are high in the US. Couldn’t really find a good statistic study, but this is good enough:

      So I think Bravo “got their facts straight”. You, however, come across as a fact-less attempt at some sort of voice of opposition. And I would make the argument that it’s people like yourself that block attempts to reform our justice and prison system to be more like our other first world peers.

      As such, I could use some logical fallacy to claim that YOU are the one enabling so much criminal activity.