The Seattle Globalist asked the Seattle City Council candidates five questions important to immigrant and minority communities in Seattle. This question, on the city’s role in the future of the King County Youth and Family Justice Center and changing the youth justice system, is the second of the series of five.
Question: Should the city of Seattle take any further action on youth detention? Should construction of the King County Youth and Family Justice Center continue as planned? As a council member would you take further steps to block the construction?
The city of Seattle should continue working on programs and services to help address and end racial disproportionality in our justice system at all levels and particularly for our youth. We must direct money and energy into ending the schools to prison pipeline. I believe construction of the Youth and Family Justice Center should continue with ongoing community engagement. I would not block construction, but would work to see that services other than detention are readily available in the facility for families and youth to address the issues at hand.
The move to make Seattle a zero-detention city for youth is an important first step. We now need to identify the resources to make that a reality. We need to fund community-based alternatives to detention, diversion, comprehensive programs for youth services, and restorative justice programs to ensure that youth are not trapped in the cycle of the criminal justice system and focus those effort on youth of color to address disparities. African American children in Washington are detained at a rate four times higher than the average for the general youth population in the state and we have a higher disparity between the rates of incarceration of African Americans and whites than every single Southern state.
The City must use its authority in every way possible to guide the development of the facility with all aspects of the facility designed to support a goal of zero use of detention. I support further reduction in the size of the facility and I will oppose the construction of the facility if it is not designed in a way that supports these goals.
This county project is built by the $210 million levy passed by the voters by a margin of 55.42 percent to 44.58 percent. Seattle’s role was related to a land use permit. The city was legally required to approve the land use permit if the applicant (County) met all of the legal requirements, as it did. I support the use of zero detention as it relates to youth detention. My committee was the City Council Committee to pass this legislation.
To my knowledge, I am the only Councilmember in recent history who has actually defended young African American youth in the current juvenile detention in front of judges and prosecutors considering imprisoning the youth for their acts. I did this voluntarily and pro-bono.
My focus will continue to be on policies to help our youth. For the first time, I invited members from the Black Lives Matter movement to be at the table. We were joined by Michael Moynihan and Ariel Hart from Ending the Prison Industrial Complex – EPIC Seattle. Their presence at the table elevated the discussion. At the same meeting, I introduced legislation to pursue a new certificate program to help individuals with criminal histories gain access to jobs that require a vocational license. My proposal expands on my proposal to “Ban the Box” which demonstrates that helping individuals gain access to jobs reduces recidivism.
I am opposed to constructing a YFJC. Young people of color are disproportionately affected by our criminal justice and school disciplinary systems. We should begin moving toward a restorative justice model that creates a path for rebuilding relationships in the community. The County should be investing $200 million in programs that support families, mentor young people, offer youth employment opportunities, and divert at-risk youth toward more promising pathways. I would use my political influence to stop construction and see what other avenues are open to me as your councilmember.
I was the sole member of the Seattle City Council (or the King County Council) to vote against the new youth jail. If we have $200 million for a youth jail, then we have $200 million to spend on youth jobs and apprenticeship programs.
I will continue to strongly support organizations, such as Ending the Prison Industrial Complex, in their continued efforts to oppose the new youth jail, and pressure the city and county officials to reverse their decision.
Pamela Banks did not submit answer.
I’m strongly supportive of ending youth incarceration in Seattle. I support the recent actions by our City Council and Seattle Teachers that combat the criminalization of our youth with the passage of a resolution to end youth incarceration in Seattle, and the strike that fought hard and won social justice victories for students including more recess time, discipline review teams in all of our schools, and an increase in counselors and psychologists in schools.
The current Youth Services Center is in extreme disrepair and has been mandated to be replaced by voters, but we have the ability as a City and County to redefine what that means for our youth. The recent resolution is a step in the right direction. We need to make the new Youth and Family Justice Center an example of what true community based rehabilitation looks like. If elected, I will use my strong relationships at the city and county levels to move towards a more socially just use of the new Center.
We need to do whatever we can to break the school to prison pipeline, and I commit to working with groups like Youth Undoing Institutionalized Racism and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex to move this agenda forward into meaningful action and legislation.
The reality is that there will be a youth detention center in Seattle. It can either be the existing structure, or a new one with fewer beds and designed to focus on providing services and education to young people, without the “punishment” focus that has accompanied the existing site. Frankly, I believe that showing kids who are interacting with law enforcement that they are worth an investment of a clean, safe space is not a bad thing.
What we need to do is re-think our criminal justice system — generally, and specifically as we apply it to young people. We know the statistics, and the way to reverse the trend of the school-to-prison pipeline – which particularly harms young persons of color – is to actually make that human investment. The long-term benefits of this investment includes reduced recidivism; and financial incentive for governments when education and training opportunities increase the likelihood of entering the workforce with a good paying job which leads to paying more in taxes, and relying less on various forms of public assistance. Having myself benefited from that human investment — residing in Cocoon House in Everett after first coming out of the closet — I can personally attest to what happens when we invest in our children.
We need to be vigilant when it comes to upholding justice in our community. History has shown us that all too often, the powers of authority in this country have done great injustices to vulnerable populations, primarily people of color and the poor. Mayor Murray’s Race and Social Justice Equity Tool has begun reducing the deeply embedded racism in Seattle, and I’m hopeful that we can work together to continue this progress. I believe that this city should take great measures to address the root causes of youthful criminality, but we must also have a mechanism to respond to incidences of repeated youth violence.
The Youth and Family Justice Center should be operated to promote justice and reconciliation for troubled youth, and certainly not used as a detention center or place of isolation. As council member I would support continued construction, but do everything I can to ensure that the center has a positive impact on our community, takes into account the racial underpinnings that have allowed injustice to prevail, and actively works against the causes that have led adolescents to require its services in the first place.
We need to take a serious look at youth incarceration in our city, especially relating to the fact that young persons of color are disproportionately likely to become ensnared in our criminal justice system. The school-to-prison pipeline is all too real.
I do not support the construction of the new youth jail. We could put the $200 million used to construct the jail to much better use by fully funding jobs programs for young people of color, increasing the county’s mental healthcare budget, and making the necessary safety and maintenance upgrades at the existing facility.
Although construction of the jail remains a county project, I would absolutely support an alternative that took the above goals into consideration if one was presented to the Seattle City Council.
I oppose the building of the new youth jail. I believe if we invest in all youth in our city and promote alternatives to incarceration we can eliminate the need to incarcerate youth. I will continue to work with the city to promote our vision for zero youth detention. I will also work with leaders at King County and King County Superior Court to promote alternatives and reduce detention. I do not, however, plan to take any actions to block existing permitting of the jail.
Youth detention needs to move towards a restorative justice model throughout our community. It won’t happen overnight, and I believe we have to be prepared for the cases in which the model hasn’t had time to work. Having spent time in the current King County facility, it is in severe need of an update. The courtrooms, waiting areas, meeting rooms, offices, and hallways, are cold and severe, sending a message that, “we don’t care about you.” For restorative justice to work, I believe it has to be done in a space that shows respect for victims, perpetrators, and staff.
Yes. We must take further action to improve court room space AND improve programs for youth.
As the former Chief Civil Deputy for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office I know we will reduce juvenile crime by improving the family life and living conditions for all of our youth. We need to reduce youth incarceration and spend more money on programming to keep kids out of jail. We MUST rebuild the Justice Center (judges need updated and healthy courtrooms) with space for respite care, case managers, public health, education, apprenticeship, jobs program on site.
Deborah Zech Artis
We need to take the millions of dollars destined for the jail and use that money for interventions to prevent youth violence. We need to help immigrant children better assimilate to their new country and lives.
Construction on this King County facility will continue, but the city government has been influential in achieving modifications to lower the number of detention beds and increase the space available for social and counseling services. We must continue to work on reducing and even eliminating youth detention and never allowing juveniles to be detained in adult facilities. There has been progress, but much more remains to be done.
We must address the racial disparities and other harms embedded in the criminal justice system. I was one of the first local elected officials to speak out against the failed policy of mass incarceration, a terribly unjust and cruel reaction to crime in the 1970s that has destroyed families and communities, perpetuated racism, and created massive barriers to employment for millions of people of color in our country.
We need to recognize the intersectionality between the justice system and our schools, and acknowledge the role that education and other social services play in preventing youth detention. That’s why such proven efforts like the Nurse Family Partnership and high-quality preschool are so important. We need to address current challenges while also investing much more very early in the lives of our children.
Jon Grant did not submit an answer.
I am strongly against the incarceration of youth but I think that framing this discussion around the construction of the youth jail misses the point. The goal should and must be to aggressively work towards zero incarceration of our youth, particularly youth of color, who have been failed by institutions infected by a history of racism. Our community would be better served if King County’s leadership dedicated the use of the building and money towards providing preventative services to opportunity youth and their families, such as therapy or defending against unfair school discipline actions. I have a robust understanding of our criminal justice system and how it intersects with racial injustice and would do as much as possible to dedicate resources at the city towards preventative services that will make a youth jail obsolete.
Bill Bradburd did not submit an answer.
Read more Globalist questions for the Seattle City Council candidates and don’t forget to vote! Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.