Seattle, WA – Early this morning, youth jail opponents blocked entrances to the contested new youth jail and courts construction site with a Community Breakfast for Community Solutions. Free breakfast was served and organizers invited attendees to envision other uses for the construction site, including as a site for job training programs and housing. This action marks the end of the second week of The People’s Moratorium, which builds off six years of opposition to the project and demands that King County Executive Dow Constantine halt construction of the youth jail and repurpose the building for meeting basic human needs.
Youth jail opponents share food, make art, and explore real community solutions to mark the end of the 2nd week of the Peoples Moratorium.
Constantine has continually refused to engage in substantive community dialogue about the project, despite widespread opposition and precarious funding sources for the $233 million jail (a WA Court of Appeals decision ruled the current allocation of funding illegal). His recent refusal to debate Nikkita Oliver on the subject of the youth jail in a public setting and his cancellation of his public State of the County address this week to avoid youth jail opposition emblematize his refusal to listen to and engage with communities impacted by youth incarceration.
“Dow Constantine is digging his heels in and speeding up construction on a project that is fiscally irresponsible, morally unjust, incongruent with public health data, and misaligned with the County’s own goal of zero youth detention,” said King County Public Health employee Kelsen Caldwell, speaking on their own behalf. “This is bad budgeting, bad planning, bad use of data, and bad for our youth. Our youth and our County deserve better.”
At the breakfast, people shared food and ideas about the different possible uses of the building, while also blocking entrances to the construction site. Ideas for repurposing the site ranged from low-income housing to arts and culture space to job training programs to space for restorative justice programs that replace the current, ineffective juvenile punishment system (which includes the courts and the jail). Community members also uplifted organizations such as Creative Justice, WA BLOC, Corner Greeters, and Youth Undoing Institutional Racism—all of which are already doing the work of creating a transformative justice system that insists that our youth deserve a better future than cages. No New Youth Jail Coalition member and Seattle Public Library worker Bean Yogi stated, “Many of these community-based programs were positioned to compete for $4 million in funding from Best Starts for Kids, which is a County initiative. Meanwhile, Dow is spending $233 million on a youth jail. Even though Dow wants to use progressive rhetoric and position himself as a champion for kids, if you follow the money, it’s clear that Dow’s version of a best start for many kids of color is a jail cell.”