King County Exposed: New Report on County’s Misconduct Revealed through Public Records Requests

Today, August 20 at 11:30am, the No New Youth Jail Coalition is holding a rally at the King County Chinook Building in downtown Seattle to demand that the County stop building the jail and court complex and repurpose the site and resources to meet human needs. We are also launching our new report, King County Exposed: The County’s Efforts to Guarantee Youth Incarceration.  Dow Constantine says he is committed to ending youth detention, but our public records requests reveal something quite different. 

This report documents:

  • The County’s actions to push the project forward without meaningful input by community members;
  • The County’s attempts to silence any opposition to the project;
  • The County’s refusal to adopt recommendations provided by experts the County hired to evaluate the project;
  • The impact the juvenile jail and courthouse will have on the lives of those–primarily poor people of color–who are forced to walk through its doors;
  • The County’s willingness to risk catastrophic budget shortfalls in its efforts to complete the project despite a court ruling that the tax levy that is supposed to pay for it was improper.

Read the report and join us at the Chinook Building on today at 11:30am!

Fighting For Our Youth

Brothers James, Jerome, and Joseph Taafulisia are Asian Pacific Islander youth accused of the highly publicized Jungle Shooting. This 2016 shooting in a homeless encampment that ran along a stretch of Interstate 5, was touted as a one of the deadliest in Seattle. The incident has since been used by the city to justify anti-homelessness raids and policies under the pretext of public safety. Although this tragic event happened almost two years ago, the trial is just now underway. Joseph, 13 years old at the time, has already been sentenced to 8 years in juvenile detention. James and Jerome on the other hand, respectively 17 years old and 16 years old when this incident occurred, were charged as adults and are facing a lifetime of imprisonment if found guilty. Amidst the media fanfare, the misfortune of these youth have been conveniently disregarded. James, Jerome and Joseph, all legally children, have been vilified throughout this process and deemed for inevitable incarceration. All to satisfy the illusion that these youths’ lifetime imprisonment could address the rising anxieties around poverty, homelessness, and violence in this increasingly inequitable city.

What the general public needs to know is that James, Jerome and Joseph, are the products of the system that is now demonizing them. These three brothers knew violence long before this act was committed. James was 5 years old, Jerome was 4 years old, and Joseph was 6 months old, when they were removed from the care of family members and taken into the custody of the state’s Child Protective Services. The lives of these youths have been tumultuous and full of instability ever since. They have been in and out of foster care, homeless, and exposed to environments and activities no child should ever have to witness or experience. Accordingly, they have had many encounters with the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and the juvenile court system. In fact, at the time of the shooting, these three youth were wards of the state who were living together in a tent on the outskirts of the Jungle. The very system that claimed to support and protect them simply failed. As with many youth of color, the criminal justice system blames the youth for these failings and holds them fully accountable to the extent of criminal law. In contrast, there is no responsibility placed upon the state-sponsored systems that have traumatized and criminalized these youth. How these youth find themselves in such circumstances and the tragedy of the violence they committed, says a lot about who we are as a society.

The reality is, James, Jerome and Joseph are neither suspects or the accused, they are victims of a system that routinely and systemically harms youth of color. They are evidence of the ineffectiveness of these court-based jail systems that city leaders support by the allocation of resources. James, Jerome and Joseph are examples of how these systems fail our youth and why we must continue to organize towards finding community-based restorative alternatives. These youth and youth like them, need stable homes, family, community – love and healing, not jails. Indeed the long-term strategy is to advocate for alternative solutions that do not involve the continual jailing of kids. In the meantime, we can show up for these youth or any youth facing judgement from institutions of racism, by supporting them through these traumatizing court proceedings.

Keep in mind – we cannot just continue to talk about No New Youth Jail and forget about the youth that are actually being put into these racist institutions. The building is not more important than the youth going into it. Ultimately, just as a community is not a community without the individuals in it, a building is just a hollow space without members of our community in it. Part of our work is to do what is necessary to stop the kidnapping of our youth by these systems to fill these buildings. Too often the defendants in these proceedings stand alone against this system and its proxies. Occupying these courtrooms and holding probation officers, prosecutors, and judges accountable, is one way we can show up as a community. We cannot underestimate the value of our presence. We must bear witness and not allow them to prosecute our community in the name of protecting us. We cannot let public officials continue to use the prison industrial complex as a convenient solution to the issues of public safety. We must fight racism and stand with our youth.

Come out and support the youth if you are available. Exact dates, times, and location of James’ and Jerome’s hearings is detailed below. Also, look out for the dates, times, and locations of hearings of other youth in the future. Your support will not only be meaningful to the struggle against racism, but much more meaningful to the youth impacted by racism.

James & Jerome Taafulisia: Monday thru Friday, up until August 19th, in Judge’s Cheryl Carey’s, Courtroom #3F,  at Maleng Regional Justice Center (RJC), Kent, WA. Trial is ongoing from 9 AM to 2 PM daily.

 

Written by Xing Hey
Instagram: @xing_hey
Facebook: Xing Hey

Capitol Hill Blog: ‘A period of redesign’ — Activists say, as planned, new youth jail will be ‘catastrophic’ to county coffers

The coalition formed to stop construction of the new county youth jail facility on 12th Ave said Tuesday that Dow Constantine’s officials have warned that the project could be “catastrophic” to county coffers.

Nikkita Oliver and the No New Youth Jail and People’s Moratorium efforts held a press conference and rally Tuesday morning to announce the findings outside the fences where construction continues on the $200 million-plus youth justice facility that will create a new incarceration facility, and new court and administrative buildings on the county’s campus at 12th and Alder.

“This system is going to traumatize children and separate families,” Oliver said Tuesday.

“We need to be committed to building something that is healing and restorative,” she said. “We sustained a campaign for six years and we’re now at a point where 120 organizations and counting have signed on to a moratorium in saying that King County must stop building this building, we must move into a period of redesign, and we must put something in place that heals and does not do harm.”

Standing in front of a large, windowless, concrete block wall, it can be hard to imagine work stopping and a re-purposed design taking shape. More than 120 community groups and organizations are calling for the re-start as part of the People’s Moratorium concerning construction of the Child and Family Justice CenterConstruction of the county’s controversial project has continued despite a legal decision that thrust a major component of the center’s $200 million-plus budget into question.

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.

While there was a large contingent of Seattle Police on hand to monitor the protest, Tuesday’s action was focused on a press conference to share details of new documents the coalition saysshow the county will have to spend millions from the general fund for the project:

In September 2017, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that King County has been unlawfully collecting property taxes for the proposed youth jail, a ruling that effectively eliminates the majority of the funding for the project. County records revealed that one day after the court decision, King County Budget Director, Dwight Dively, emailed officials, stating that, if the County is unsuccessful in the appeal, the project would need to be “paid from the General Fund, resulting in even more financial pressure on other services.” Specifically, the County would be required to issue bonds with an estimated annual debt service of $11.4 million dollars for the next 30 years. Then again, in December 2017, Mr. Dively emailed officials, stating that, a loss could add $50-200 million to the General Fund, and that the “effect is potentially catastrophic.” Click here for Dively’s email. Nevertheless, without any alternative funding source in place, King County continued construction on the $210 million project.

Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien spoke Tuesday against the construction.

“I think we need to halt construction on this project and we need to reimagine what it can be and not complete this youth jail,” O’Brien said. “I’m here because a few years ago when I was chair of Seattle’s land use committee and I voted in support of the land use change, because I didn’t believe that this project could be stopped and I thought we might as well build a pretty jail as opposed to an ugly jail and I was wrong. I regret that. This project is not inevitable, it’s still not inevitable, and I want to do what I can to help others in power who can stop this, not make the same mistake I did.”

Other activists drew connections to the fight against the separation of families by federal immigration officials.

“It’s all connected,” Maru Mora Villapando said. “When we fight at the detention center, we’re fighting cages for human beings. The youth jail is also a cage, but for children.”

http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2018/07/a-period-of-redesign-activists-say-as-planned-new-youth-jail-will-be-catastrophic-to-county-coffers/

Seattle Weekly: King County Youth Detention Center Moves Forward Despite Opposition As community criticism of the project mounts, King County tries to take a middle road

By Thursday, July 19, 2018 10:15am

As construction moves ahead on the new King County youth detention center at 12th and Alder in the Central District, anti-incarceration activists continue the fight against the controversial project.

The $210 million youth detention center—which will replace the current facility in central Seattle—will feature 112 inmate beds and additional court rooms. King County officials refer to it as the “children and family justice center,” while the activists opposing its construction have dubbed it a “youth jail.” Ever since funding for the project was approved by the voters back in 2012, it has been one of the most contentious issues in Seattle politics, generating a sustained campaign of public protests and legal actions.

Activists argue that the new facility will perpetuate the disproportionate incarceration of youth of color, that youth detention is psychologically harmful to juveniles, and that the county should invest in alternatives to detention. County officials, on the other hand, claim that the existing, aging detention center—parts of which date back to 1952—needs to be replaced and that overall youth incarceration has decreased over the years. (Minority youth are still disproportionately overrepresented among incarcerated youth in the detention center, however.)

At a July 17 press conference held in front of the project construction site, No New Youth Jail Coalition members touted the growing number of local organizations that oppose the new facility and decried the county’s decision to push ahead with construction.

“We’ve sustained a campaign for six years and we are now at a point where 120 organizations—and still counting—to date have signed on to a moratorium saying that King County must stop building this building, that we must move into a period of redesign, and we must put something in place that heals and does not do harm,” activist and former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver said at the event. “There is a growing consensus in King County that Dow’s agenda to build this jail actually reflects Trump’s agenda. That it reflects the same ideas of perpetuating a racist system that is built on the backs of black and brown bodies.”

Elected officials—including Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and Federal City Councilmember Jesse Johnson—and representatives from organizations such as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Columbia Legal Services, and environmental advocacy group Got Green also stood by anti-incarceration activists to condemn the project.

“What we have realized—and what brain science now realizes—is that every person that is institutionalized is harmed; that in and of itself, locking someone up is inhumane,” said Merf Enham, executive director of Columbia Legal Services. “I call on Dow Constantine and our organizations to stop building this facility.”

Research has supported the notion that youth detention is psychologically damaging and ultimately counterproductive to public safety goals. A 2011 study by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Justice) found that long-term incarceration of youth does not reduce the chance that they will reoffend. Other studies have shown that detention exacerbates existing mental and behavioral health conditions in youth, and, in fact, increases odds of recidivism.

Malou Chavez, deputy director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said at the press conference that the public should view the new youth detention center in the same negative light as the federal government’s incarceration of undocumented immigrants. “Let’s extend that same outrage and support to [youths] currently incarcerated and separated from their families here, and not just [the ones] in ICE custody,” she said.

Attempts by activists to halt the project through the courts have had mixed results. Following the passage of the 2012 tax levy financing the project, years of continued public protest ensued. In 2016, Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC)—an anti-prison advocacy group that has been aggressively campaigning against the project—sued King County, arguing that the the county misled voters in their description of the 2012 tax levy.

The case has gone all the way to the state Supreme Court, and could pose serious financial problems for the county if the levy is invalidated. According to emails obtained by anti-youth jail activists through a public records request, King County Budget Director Dwight Dively told county staff on that if the county were to lose this case before the state Supreme Court, they would have to turn to bonds for financing, and the annual debt service payments would have a “potentially catastrophic” effect on the county’s general fund, which is already spread thin. (Alex Fryer, a spokesperson for Executive Constantine, declined to comment on the emails or on potential future financing issues.)

In 2017, EPIC also filed an appeal with the Seattle Hearing Examiner’s Office to revoke a master use permit issued to King County by the City of Seattle in December 2016, which allowed them to go ahead with construction of the facility. If the permit had been invalidated, construction on the project would’ve ground to a halt. (The facility is currently slated to open in 2019.)

But EPIC’s appeal was dismissed by the hearing examiner, who argued that they didn’t have the authority to weigh in on the permit. A subsequent appeal to the King County Superior Court was also dismissed on grounds that EPIC failed to file its appeal within a mandated time frame. The group then pushed the case to the state Court of Appeals, who affirmed the lower court’s verdict on May 29. Knoll Lowney, EPIC’s attorney on the case, told Seattle Weekly that while the group hasn’t decided whether or not they are going to further appeal this ruling, it likely wouldn’t halt construction of the project at this point.“[The county] keep building, so it’s unlikely that a permit appeal is going to have a lot of impact given how slow the Supreme Court works,” he said. “The jail is being built. So, short of a judge requiring it to be torn down, it’s unlikely that the overall envelope is going to be changed.”

In the face of continued activist pressure, the county has maintained that they have to continue with the project while also attempting to appease activists’ intent to eliminate the incarceration of youth in the county. Early last year, Executive Constantine directed county to pursue the goal of “zero youth detention,” and then placed responsibility for restructuring the juvenile detention system with King County Public Health. Then, the county commissioned a review of the new facility’s design from researchers at the University of Washington’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The analysis, authored by Eric Trupin (vice chair and professor in the university department), made a slew of recommended architectural and programming changes (195 in total), such as reducing the overall number of secure beds from 124 to 92 to account for the declining average daily inmate population, which has fallen from 105 in 2006 to 51 in 2016. Additionally, Trupin called on the county to eliminate truancy beds, refuse the booking of youths under the age of 12, and extend family visitation times to five times a week instead of the current three.

Immediately after the report was published, King County Executive Executive Constantine tried to tame expectations for the timeline of achieving zero youth detention. “We cannot simply decide that as of tomorrow we will have zero detention because we don’t have the kinds of robust alternatives or community facilities and programs we would need to be able to take on those kids and keep them safe and keep the community safe,” he said, according to KUOW.

In Executive Constantine’s response to the report, his staff noted that the county is either already pursuing or pursue numerous the recommendations, such as adding wood paneling to the facility’s interior to move it away from the traditional aesthetics of American correctional facilities and providing mandatory training to detention center staff and judges on cultural competence, implicit bias, institutional racism, and crisis intervention. Kelli Carroll, director of special projects in the executive’s office, told Seattle Weekly that the county is implementing or will implement (even if only partially) at least 75 percent of the recommendations.

But Constantine wouldn’t budge on some of Trupin’s most crucial recommendations. His staff argued that the secure bed count could not be reduced due to the fact that the facility is already under construction, and that the suggested number would not provide enough separated secure spaces for 20 youth convicted as adults for serious felony charges (such as rape and first degree murder) who were recently relocated to the existing youth detention center from county adult correctional facilities. On increasing family visitation hours and truancy beds, he argued that the policy decisions are in the purview of King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Correction and the state legislature, respectively. (A bill that would have eliminated the law allowing truant kids to be placed in detention stalled over the 2018 legislative session.)

Trupin told Seattle Weekly that the executive could be much proactive and publicly vocal in pressuring county departments and lobbying for changes in state law to make changes called for by Trupin and activists. “I think that executive leadership and energy and direction around these strategies has a great impact … he can’t necessarily dictate what the court does but he conveys a mission and a vision,” Trupin told Seattle Weekly. “I don’t think ‘just saying this is out of our purview’ is enough, because it is the county executive who laid out zero youth detention.”

Omid Bagheri, a clinical instructor in the University of Washington School of Public Health and a critic of the new youth detention center, said that, “They continue to move on with the same bed count. This new jail will look nicer, it will have a nicer name, but it still stands to uphold a system that directly impacts black and brown and native youth. That isn’t fundamentally different from other jails we’ve seen around the country,” he told Seattle Weekly. “The commitment to zero youth detention, that is calling for a fundamental change and this jail is not a fundamental change.”

The county is currently developing a “Zero Youth Detention Road Map” report due at the end of August 2018, which will reportedly inform future reforms.

But, for activists, all the county’s alleged attempts at reform feel hypocritical when the county is still investing in a new detention center. “It’s not too late for Dow to change his mind. and it’s not too late for us to change course,” said Oliver. “All Dow has to do is listen to the community voices that have been reaching out to him for six years.”

 

Federal Way City Council Member Jesse Johnson Endorses People’s Moratorium

“I support the No New Youth Jail Coalition and People’s Moratorium because I understand our need for culturally responsive prevention, intervention and diversion services to decrease youth incarceration and dismantle the prison industrial complex. Federal Way is 3rd in highest referrals to the juvenile system in King County and 82% of these referrals are youth of color. This is not just a question about the vision for the future of our county but about the soul of our community and we must advocate for preventative strategies to youth incarceration that will prevent further escalation into the system. ” —Federal Way City Council Member Jesse Johnson

Seattle Times: Opposition to King County youth jail grows as immigrant-rights group joins effort to halt construction

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Columbia Legal Services and King County’s Department of Public Defense among more than 120 groups that oppose building the facility.

Malou Chavez from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project endorsing the #PeoplesMoratorium.

High-profile rights groups, including one that works on behalf of immigrants, have joined activists trying to stop construction on a prison for youth that’s being built in Seattle’s Central District.

Demonstrators on Tuesday gathered outside the construction site on 14th Avenue, just blocks away from Garfield High School, to reassert their disapproval of spending public money to build the facility instead of directing the funds to other needs such as housing. The umbrella effort, referred to as the People’s Moratorium, announced that more than 120 groups have joined the cause, including Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Columbia Legal Services and King County’s Department of Public Defense.

The rally is the latest effort by the No New Youth Jail Coalition to stop the project. In 2012, voters approved a $210 million levy to pay for a replacement of the existing juvenile-justice complex, of which $40 million was slated for the detention portion of the Children and Family Justice Center. The remainder was planned to fund courtrooms and community resources.

Maru Mora from Northwest Detention Center Resistance endorsing the People’s Moratorium.

“This is wrong. This is harmful. This is traumatizing,” activist and former mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver said at the rally outside the Children and Family Justice Center, which is being built to replace the aging Youth Services Center. “This system is inherently broken.”

Opponents of the new detention center have filed a number of legal challenges to the project, including one over the language presented to voters who approved the measure and a second contesting the city’s issuance of a master-use permit for the project.

The appeal against the permit’s issuance was dealt a legal blow in May when the state Court of Appeals sided with an earlier King County Superior Court ruling that determined it missed the filing deadline. Opponents also claim King County provided flawed language in the ballot measure to approve construction and that voters had actually only authorized collecting property taxes for the project for one year.

King County spokesman Alex Fryer has said the county believes voters understood that it was a 9-year-levy they approved.

“This facility and all prisons are vestiges of slavery,” Merf Ehman, the director of Columbia Legal Services, an advocacy group that last week endorsed the People’s Moratorium, said at Tuesday’s rally. “We want to use the law to dismantle these facilities.”

Newly Released County Records Show that County Officials Have Warned Dow the Jail Could Be “Catastrophic” for the County

Hamacher Letter PAO released docs

July 17, 2018 rally and press conference naming 120 new organizations endorsing the People’s Moratorium.

Newly released King County documents reveal that even County officials have warned that the project could be “catastrophic” to King County’s General Fund.

In September 2017, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that King County has been unlawfully collecting property taxes for the proposed youth jail, a ruling that effectively eliminates the majority of the funding for the project. County records revealed that one day after the court decision, King County Budget Director, Dwight Dively, emailed officials, stating that, if the County is unsuccessful in the appeal, the project would need to be “paid from the General Fund, resulting in even more financial pressure on other services.” Specifically, the County would be required to issue bonds with an estimated annual debt service of $11.4 million dollars for the next 30 years. Then again, in December 2017, Mr. Dively emailed officials, stating that, a loss could add $50-200 million to the General Fund, and that the “effect is potentially catastrophic.” Click here for Dively’s email. Nevertheless, without any alternative funding source in place, King County continued construction on the $210 million project.

Another recently released letter seems to suggest the Executive did not follow advice regarding the project. It also suggests that the Executive was not cooperative with the council in providing information to answer legal and policy questions.

Pressure is increasing on Dow Constantine, who has continued the project against mounting opposition. Constantine has defended the project, arguing that he supports “zero youth detention” as a goal and promoting the county’s investment in “Best Starts for Kids,” which provides grants to local organizations serving youth. Organizers, however, pointed out the disparity between King County’s willingness to fund “Best Starts for Kids” for only six years, while continuing construction on a punishment facility designed to last for fifty years with uncertain funds. Organizers vowed to continue the growing fight to put King County on a better path.