The No New Youth Jail Campaign, led by End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) stands in strong opposition to the building of a new $210 million “Children and Family Justice Center” in King County. We write this in alignment with youth, parents, children, families, prisoners, those whose voices are loud and those who are silenced, united in the belief that we must shift our County’s approach of “fixing broken youth” to “fixing broken education and juvenile justice systems.” It’s written in the United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child, principle 9: The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. We see the construction of this new facility as an absolute violation of that right. We seek to redirect funding away from the mass incarceration of youth of color and towards community based prevention, intervention and diversion services and programs. Only then will we truly be investing in the future of our youth.
Crime is Down in King County
According to the King County Prosecutor, there has been a 50% decrease in youth convictions over the last decade, yet we are spending $210 million dollars to almost double the number of beds in the new youth jail. This expenditure of tax dollars not align with our current reality and will create incentive for increased incarceration to justify this expansion.
Building a New Youth Jail Perpetuates Racial Disparities
In 2012, King County reported that 39.5% of imprisoned youth were African American children, though they only made up 9.8% of the youth population. Additionally, 2.5% of the County’s incarcerated children were Native American, though they only made up 1.1% of the total youth population. These disparities are the symptoms of a system that disproportionately profiles, monitors, arrests, prosecutes, and sentences youth of color compared to white youth.
The proposal to build a new juvenile detention center is more than just a plan to build an updated brick and mortar facility; it is a mechanism to systematically uphold the racial, social, and economic discrimination that has historically oppressed communities of color. This new detention center will also further the gentrification process of the Central District and serve to further displace African Americans and others indigenous to the Central Area.
A Systemic Problem Demands a Holistic Solution:
While current plans for a new youth jail reinforce a justice system based on punishment, debt and isolation of juveniles, we also recognize that no one institution works alone. In order to end mass incarceration of youth of color our solutions must also address intergenerational poverty, income inequality and the public education system.
1. Invest in our youth: Fund services and programs on the front end, to support young people through community based prevention and intervention programming.
2. Strengthen alternatives to incarceration: Fund community-based alternatives to detention, including diversion programs, a reception center and restorative justice models.
3. Integrate an Anti-Racist Lens: In order for our institutions to address racial disparities, investment of funds should be accompanied by an analysis of the effect that it will have on communities of color. Educate the individuals and organizations working with our youth about the ways that racism is embedded within the current system so that they can create solutions based in this understanding.
We, the undersigned individuals and organizations represent a broad range of community, legal, faith, civic, business, social service, housing and social interests and we urge you to take a stand on this issue: No more youth jails! Restore to them the rights of a child. Join with us in finding solutions that will build the communities that we want, rather than pouring money into a project that will exacerbate the mass incarceration of our youth. Please contact Dustin Washington at Dwashington@afsc.org or 206-632-0500 ext. 14 for further dialogue.
End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC)
Alliance for a Just Society
American Friends Service Committee
Arts Corps and Youth Speaks
Bethany United Church of Christ
Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW)
Committee on Oppression, Racism, and Education (CORE) UW Student Group
Freedom Church of Seattle
Freedom Education Project Puget Sound
Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church
NAACP of King County
No New Jim Crow
Peace Action Group of Plymouth Church
Peoples Institute for Seattle and Beyond NW
Post-Prison Education Program
Seattle University’s Social Work club
Statewide Poverty Action Network
Village of Hope
Washington Community Action Network
Youth Undoing Institutional Racism
Dennis Lamont Styles
Dr. Gary Perry
Dr. Pamela Taylor (Director, Center for the Study of Justice in Society, Seattle University)
Dr. Rose Ernst
Dugan and Perry Sammuel
J. Caesar Robinson
Rev. Mark Zimmerly (Pastor, Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church)
Rev. Angela Ying (Senior Pastor, Bethany United Church of Christ)
Rev. Brandon Duran (Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults, Plymouth Church United Church of Christ)
Rev. Brigatta Remole (Senior Pastor, Plymouth Church United Church of Christ)
Rev. Carol Jensen (Pastor, St. John United Lutheran Church)
Rev. David C. Bloom
Rev. Dr. Monica Corsaro (Pastor, Rainier Beach United Methodist Church)
Rev. Joan Henium (Pastor, University Christian Church)
Rev. Jon M. Luopa (Senior Pastor, University Unitarian Church)
Rev. Lauren Cannon (Associate Pastor, Keystone United Church of Christ)
Rev. Marcia J. Patton (Executive Minister, Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches)
Rev. Mike Denton (Conference Pastor, PNW Conference of the United Church of Christ)
Rev. Paul Benz (Faith Action Network)
Rev. Rich Gamble (Senior Pastor, Keystone United Church of Christ)
Rev. Rich Lang (University Temple United Methodist)
Rev. Richard Cunningham
Rev. Richard Dersen
Rev. Ron Moe-Lobeda (Pastor, University Lutheran Church)
Rev. Tim Phillips (Senior Pastor, Seattle First Baptist Church)
Rev. Willis (True Vine Church)
Rev. Zachary Bruce (Pastor, Freedom Church of Seattle)