• Community demands new juvenile jail plans be scrapped

    By: Amy Clancy

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - King County voters approved a new juvenile jail to be built in the city of Seattle back in August of 2012.   As ground-breaking grows closer, community outcry against the facility grows louder.

    On Wednesday, leaders from the NAACP, Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC), Anti-Racist Organizing Network and other groups called the new facility an example of racism within the criminal justice system.

    The new $210 million Children and Family Justice Center will replace the King County Youth Services Center at 12th Avenue and Alder<Street?>.  According to King County’s website, “replacing the aging facilities at the YSC has been the county’s highest priority capital project since 2008.”  But those gathered outside Bethany United Church of Christ on Wednesday called the new facility another way to incarcerate disproportionately more African-American children, and youth of color, than anyone else.  “All of the numbers, all of the reports, show that we lock black children, Native (American) children, Latino children up because of the color of their skin,” Sheley Secrest of the Seattle King County NAACP said.  Secrest believes leaders from local minority communities should have been part of the planning process before the votes were cast in 2012, because children of color make up the majority of youth detained in King County.

    “Right now, the whole country is focusing on criminal justice reform and mass incarceration,” Seattle King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson said.  “And we still watch Seattle and King County move forward, building a new palace to house all of our children rather than investing in the things that are necessary to prevent them from being there,” he said.

    Secrest, Hankerson and James Williams of Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) suggested that the $210 million earmarked for the Children and Family Justice Center be spent on educating and employing troubled youth instead of incarcerating them: which is exactly what presiding King County Superior Court Judge Susan Craighead said this new facility will do.  “We are actually on the same page as the people who are against the facility.”

    Craighead – a former public defender – argued the center will do much more than provide detention and court services; it will also house at-risk youth and reunite desperate families. 

    “I really hope that this facility will communicate a sense of hopefulness and calm to children who have been traumatized their whole lives,” Craighead told KIRO 7.

    The presiding judge also said the concerns raised by community leaders on Wednesday are being heard by the county, and will have an impact on how the juvenile facility ultimately operates.
     
    Follow this link to read additional details about the Children and Family Justice Center Project.

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