End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) is a community group working to stop the construction of the proposed new youth jail in King County, Washington. EPIC operates with staff support from American Friends Service Committee and includes members of Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, the People’s Institute Northwest and the community at-large.
As part of the proposed new Children and Family Justice Center at 12th and Alder, which will include new courtrooms, judges offices, and space for programming, the County plans to build a 96,000 sq ft youth jail with 154 single-occupancy cells.
WHY WE OPPOSE THE NEW JAIL
- Crime is down and so are populations within our current youth jail
- King County has been reducing the use of jail for youth: the average daily population was 191 in 1998; in 2012, it was only 70.
- SPD reports that in 2012, major crimes in Seattle were at their lowest level in four years and have decreased 11% since 2009
- Youth incarceration has decreased, but this has not led to an increase in crime
- Too many youth are being unnecessarily incarcerated for non-violent offenses
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that in 2012, only 14% of youth held in secure confinement across the country were held for violent offenses
- According to the Justice Policy Institute’s 2006 policy brief, The Dangers of Detention, jailing youth has little-to-no relationship with reductions in crime in the community, increases recidivism (instead of reducing it), pulls youth deeper into the system, causes additional harm to youth with special needs or experiencing mental illness, and greatly reduces youth success in the labor market
- For example, a study of youth in San Francisco’s Detention Diversion Advocacy Program showed they have about half the recidivism rate of young people who remained in detention or in the juvenile justice system (cited in Dangers of Detention)
- Current policies and practices result in extreme racial inequities
- In 2012, a total of 1,320 young people were held in secure detention at the youth jail at 12th and Alder, 39.55% (522) of whom were African American, even though African Americans made up only 9.8% of the 2011 total youth population in King County; Native Americans comprised 2.5% (33) of those detained, though they made up only 1.1% of the 2011 total youth population in the County.
- Black youth were jailed two times as often as white youth, even though white youth outnumber black youth in King County 7:1
- The County did not use a racial equity impact assessment to review the proposed new youth jail project
- The School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Seattle Public Schools is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for disproportionately using harsh discipline with youth of color for the same offenses as white youth
- This pipeline is undeniable: As Helen Halpert, Chief Justice of King County Juvenile Court, and Katie Mosehauer, Executive Director of Washington Appleseed wrote in their February 15th Seattle Times Op-ed, Don’t Abandon Disciplined Students, “Without access to education, these kids are less likely to progress academically, less likely to graduate, and far more likely to end up involved in the justice system.”
- They cited the national statistic that 75% of adults who are incarcerated do not have a high school diploma
- Youth and families who are most affected by the proposed new youth jail play only a minor role in the decision to build the new jail
WE ARE FOR
Working with those most affected by youth incarceration to create an alternative plan that includes:
- A cultural shift in which all programs are filtered through an upstream lens
- Prevention programs for youth before they even enter the system (upstream, systems approach)
- A holistic analysis of the impact of racism on juveniles, including pathways to juvenile justice, and a plan to address it at every part of the system
- A community-based, 24-hour reception center where youth are brought instead of the jail, and are connected to a range of prevention and intervention services
- Fully funding community-based alternatives to detention
- Training around the impact of institutional, structural, and cultural racism for police and all staff employed by the juvenile justice system; support this with a sustained, on-going commitment to developing solutions based in this understanding
- Rigorous primary and secondary trauma support services
See a presentation on racial disparity on the criminal justice system by University of Washington professors Alexes Harris and Katherine Beckett below.