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Over 100 Organizations Call to Halt Construction of King County Youth Jail
Broad cross-section of groups opposing youth jail and courts to rally and present recent revelations on internal documents describing ongoing Construction as Potentially “Catastrophic” to County Budget
What: Press Conference and Rally at Youth Jail Construction Site
Where: 12th and Alder, King County Juvenile Detention Facility
When: 9:00 am, Monday, July 17th
At a press conference and rally this morning outside the youth jail and courthouse construction site in Seattle, representatives from over 100 organizations endorsing the People’s Moratorium gather to announce their shared push for a halt on construction. Newly released King County documents reveal that even County officials have warned that the project could be “catastrophic” to King County’s General Fund. Speakers from endorsing organizations, including Got Green, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and Columbia Legal Services, as well as elected officials, will take the stage to demand that King County Executive Dow Constantine halt all building activities at the new youth jail and courts pending negotiations with community members to redesign and repurpose the facility to meet basic human needs.
The 100+ organizations that have now endorsed the moratorium include a broad array on constituencies from across King County, from legal organizations to immigrant rights groups, faith-based organizations, and unions. Endorsers include the King County’s Department of Public Defense, the Public Defender Association, the Washington Defender Association, Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, Centro de la Raza, Legal Voice, Columbia Legal Services, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Team Child, Got Green, Real Change News, and Muslim Association of Puget Sound – American Muslim Empowerment Network.
In letters sent to Executive Dow Constantine, the organizations explained their opposition to the project:
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Columbia Legal Services:
“King County and the nation are at an historic crossroads in how we treat children caught up in the criminal justice, dependency and immigration detention systems … Continuing to build a new youth jail moves us all away from realizing King County’s commitment to Zero Youth Detention. The time is right to halt construction and truly dig into how King County can reach that vital goal.”
“In the six years since the vote on the now imperiled tax levy to fund the jail, much has changed. There is a growing consensus backed by research that incarceration for youth does not work. It does not keep our communities safe, and it wreaks havoc in the lives of youth and families, mostly families of color, whom it touches. Please listen to the growing consensus that building a youth jail takes us in the wrong direction. We know that contact with law enforcement and penal system marks members of community for immigration enforcement. By pausing construction and moving away from a model that is bound up arrest and detention, the County will also affirm it will keep children in our neighborhoods out of ICE’s hands.”
King County Department of Public Defense
“Juvenile jails and prisons traumatize young people and make communities less safe. When young people are incarcerated they are ripped away from their homes, schools, and communities. … Those harms disproportionately fall on young people of color, who make up more than 80 percent of the young people incarcerated in King County. Rather than being locked up, young people should be supported in their community.”
Concerns about the project have only worsened as new information has emerged about how legal challenges to the jail’s funding scheme could cause the cost of the jail to end up being paid by the 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.” Nevertheless, without any alternative funding source in place, King County continued construction on the $210 million project.
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.
Full list of moratorium endorsers, full text of endorser’s letters, and King County internal documents will be available at the press conference.
For Live Updates, Visit www.facebook.com/NoNewYouthJailSeattle or nonewyouthjail.org.