New King County youth jail. (King County)

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) is expected to release its permitting decision on the King County Children And Family Justice Center better known as the Seattle Youth Jail on December 22 right before most of the city retires for the holiday.

Opponents of the $210 million jail have suggested the timing is suspect and the City and County likely intend to use the holiday break to bury the story and dampen blowback expected against approval of the controversial project. For more on why the project is so controversial, read my summary of the issue written in September. In short, the County ballot measure passed with deceptive wording. The center overall embodies a punitive model of justice that most experts agree is counterproductive, especially for juveniles. Why not spend that $210 million on prevention and serving at-risk communities rather than punishing them after the fact?

EPIC has been organizing against the youth jail and seeking better community-focused alternatives for years. (EPIC)

The group Ending Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) Seattle has made transitioning to a better model of justice its mission, a model not based on retribution or a corrupt prison-for-profit industry. Earlier this year EPIC sought an injunction against the new jail but was this injunction was denied by the County.

If the County was hoping to sneak the master use permit approval through with nobody noticing, it doesn’t seem to have worked. Yesterday protesters tuned up at a press conference about making Washington state a “Hate Free Zone” hosted Congresswoman-Elect Pramila Jayapal with Mayor Ed Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and several other Democratic heavy hitters also speaking. Protesters pointed out the cognitive dissonance between declaring the state “hate-free” while also continuing patterns of mass incarceration that start with youth jails. See the Ana Sofia Knauf tweetstorm and Stranger article for more coverage.

Ava DuVernay directed an excellent documentary entitled 13th that delves into the deep roots of mass incarceration that go back to the Thirteenth Amendment and the deep harm it’s done to Black and Latino communities. Try watching the film and see if you still support youth jails and mass incarceration. Released in October,13th is now available on Netflix here.

Block The Bunker–after successfully delaying the new North Precinct megaplex–isn’t going down without a fight on the new youth jail. Activist Nikkita Oliver put out an action alert:

!!ACTION ALERT!! #NoNewYouthJail #BlockTheBunker

**Mayor Murray, Dow Constantine, the City of Seattle, and King County intend to give our children and families a new children jail for the holidays.**

On December 22nd the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection will release its decision regarding granting permits to King County to build a new children’s jail in Seattle.

Why release this decision during winter break when so few people are in town and/or paying attention? Well, #NoNewYouthJail organizers and community members believe the City of Seattle intends to grant the permits. The holidays are a busy time for many; which means few people may take notice of the decision before it is too late to appeal.

Mayor Ed Murray and Dow Constantine, King County Executive are both up for re-election in the near future. We, the People, will be sure to let them know how we feel about this if a) the permits are granted and/or b) they do not intervene and prevent the construction of a new children’s jail in our city.

Ways to Act:
– Call and/or email your city representative
– Call the Mayor’s Office [(206) 684-4000] and/or King County Executive Office [(206) 263-9600/]

About That $210 Million Youth Jail…

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.