Apologies for lack of recent updates on the jail. There has been a lot going on, this will be a brief summary.
In December, we found out that the City planned to grant its permits for the new jail (the County has to get permits from the City) during Christmas week to try to avoid facing community response. We turned out in force to a press conference held by elected officials to declare WA a “Hate-Free State.”
We disrupted the remarks of Mayor Murray and County Executive Dow Constantine, exposing their hypocrisy as they promoted themselves as anti-racists while planning the new youth jail and trying to sneak its next phase by during the week of a major holiday.
Later that week we gathered for a large protest in front of Mayor Ed Murray’s home, demanding that he deny the jail permits and stop the project. Here is an op-ed by law professors opposing the jail from that same week.
The Master Use Permit (MUP) was ultimately granted by the city. Here is our press release responding. The next step was that over 75 organizations, mostly organizations that serve community most impacted by youth criminalization, submitted an appeal of the permit.
In January, it seemed like the tide was turning. A letter from Ed Murray to Dow Constantine was leaked, in which Murray stated opposition to the project. This was followed by a statement from Dow Constantine trying to look like he cares about racism and youth criminalization while still justifying the new jail. City Councilmembers Demboski and Harrell also showed up to the game with a statement against the jail.
But then the Hearing Examiner charged with looking at the appeal to the MUP issued a terrible ruling. The Examiner found that even though the ordinance clearly states that appeals are allowed and the MUP itself said that appeals are allowed, appeals are not allowed. This strained reading is clearly an attempt to stop communities of color from having their concerns about the jail heard. Murray has been trying to distance himself from this unpopular project because it is an election year, but his own attorneys filed a motion to dismiss that resulted in silencing the appeal of community organizations. Dow Constantine pretends that he cares about racism, and is aiming to promote himself as a juvenile justice reformer in this election year, but his attorneys filed a motion to dismiss that resulted in this silencing.
This week, Councilmember O’Brien made this statement, saying that the legislative intent of the ordinance was to allow the appeal. It is unclear what will happen with that process. What is clear is that the Mayor, the County Executive and the City and County Councils have felt our heat and are scrambling around, trying to keep pushing this horrible project through while simultaneously distancing themselves from it. Now is a great time to tell them exactly what you think of building this jail. Request a live meeting with Dow to tell him what you think! Write emails to all of them! Turn up at their campaign events and hold them responsible for their actions. Don’t be shy.