For Immediate Release:
Seattle, WA March 25, 2018
BREAKING: Youth Jail Opponents Shut Down Construction in Protest,
Locking Down at Youth Jail and Court Site
Activists Begin “People’s Moratorium” on Youth Jail Construction, Call for Repurposing of Site Away from Caging Youth
What: Activists Locked Down at Youth Jail Construction Site
Where: Lockdowns at 12th and Alder and 14th and Alder, King County Juvenile Detention Facility
When: Starting at 7:30 AM, Monday March 26th
Early this morning, members of the No New Youth Jail (NNYJ) coalition shut down construction at the youth jail building site, demanding that King County Executive Dow Constantine halt all building activities at the new youth jail and courts. Starting at 7:30 AM, activists blocked entrances to the construction site on both 12th and 14th avenue using ladders, chains, lock boxes, and their bodies. This marks the beginning of the People’s Moratorium on construction at the site. “We have fought this fight on many fronts – in the courts, in county and city council chambers, in the press, and on the streets,” stated Carly Brook, member of the NNYJ coalition.” At every point, the county has refused to listen, so today, we’re stopping the construction with our bodies.”
Members of the NNYJ coalition are demanding that Constantine and King County not spend one more penny on a harmful court and jail-building project, and instead repurpose the site away from incarcerating youth and towards meeting basic human needs. For the past six years, opponents of the jail have been fighting a vital battle to stop the construction of the youth jail and court complex, changing the conversation about youth imprisonment in Seattle and King County, and pressuring both to adopt a goal of zero detention for youth. Last week, the coalition delivered a letter asking for a moratorium to Constantine. In light of continued building activities at the site, today’s action institutes a People’s Moratorium on construction.
The People’s Moratorium follows the 2017 Washington Court of Appeals ruling finding 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. Following the ruling, without any alternative funding source in place, King County broke ground on the $210 million project, effectively punching a hole in the County’s budget that puts at risk other vital county services.
The continued construction at the 12th and Alder site runs directly counter to Constantine’s stated commitment to zero detention for youth, instead committing the county to a building designed to cage youth for the next fifty years. “As if building a new youth jail and courts targeting youth and family of colors wasn’t enough, Dow Constantine is planning to sell off the county-owned land surrounding the new jail to private developers,” stated Dean Spade, one of those locked down at the site. “Is the county really going to surround the youth jail filled with Black children with real estate development that displaces even more Black families from the Central District?”
Organizers blasted the County’s misleading language and positive messaging surrounding the project, emphasizing that the construction of the facility would uphold racist systems and strengthen the school to prison pipeline. In the past 10 years King County has reduced youth detention by nearly 75%. However, despite making up only 10% of the King County population, more than 50% of incarcerated youth are black, and the planned facility holds more than double the number of cells currently in use, cells that will be filled with youth of color. “We are here today, because we know a different future is possible,” stated Andrea Marcos of the NNYJ Coalition. “It’s not too late to put King County on a different path, one premised on supporting our youth and families, not locking them up and separating them.”
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