12 Points Against Seattle’s New Youth Jail


For more than five years, thousands of people in Seattle have fought the construction of a new $210 million youth jail in Seattle’s Central District, the city’s historically African-American neighborhood. People from all walks of life–Black and brown people, criminalized people, queer and trans people, students, healthcare workers, anarchists, youth, social workers, migrants, clergy members, Raging Grannies, teachers, 75 community organizations, and more–have mobilized month after month since 2012 to reject the idea that any young person should be in jail and to force the City and County to abandon the new youth jail project. Here are 12 points against the new youth jail.

This project was not approved by King County voters.

21% of registered voters in King County approved the tax levy to fund the new youth jail. The remaining 79% of registered voters either voted against the measure or did not vote. The measure would have received even less support than 21% of registered voters if the ballot had made it clear that it was funding a new jail for kids.

This project is an old-fashioned, back-room land swindle.

The real purpose of this project all along has been to allow three large parcels of land in the Central District to be sold cheaply to King County Council/Seattle City Council members’ friends and families. These three large parcels of extremely valuable Seattle real estate have been deemed “surplus” by the County, which in reality means they are going to make tons of cash for developers and profit-mongers.

This project claims that Washington is required by law to maintain cages for children.

This is factually untrue. In Washington State, it is illegal for children to be incarcerated in facilities with adults. There is no legal requirement that the State maintain incarceration facilities for children.

This project is being pushed by King County judges who believe that they are entitled to more luxurious facilities for themselves.

The judges have long demanded fancier courtrooms and nicer private chambers. The judges’ area in the proposed new jail is actually larger than the detention center.

Sleazy politicians are turning against this project now that it’s clearly underway.

Mayor Murray came out with a statement against the youth jail at the same time that he was secretly pressuring others to continue moving the project forward. City councilmembers who repeatedly voted to approve the jail are now crying crocodile tears and wringing their hands about the harms of youth detention. We know their eyes aren’t full of tears but instead are concentrated squarely on saving their reputation with the voters in this election year.

This project is so fucking racist.

Black, Native, and immigrant youth are targeted by Seattle’s jail. Any claims of being a “Hate Free State” or a “Sanctuary City” are completely contradicted by the rates at which we lock up our Black, Native, and immigrant children.

Nationally and locally, 12% of young people are sexually assaulted while in jail each year, mostly by guards.

Putting children in jail is emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive. We pay the salaries of those who abuse, humiliate, and violate our young people while they are caged away from their families and communities.

The company attempting to build this jail (Howard S. Wright) is owned by an international corporation (Balfour Beatty) that makes billions of dollars building prisons and detention centers worldwide.

Balfour Beatty has built hundreds of jails around the globe. We should reject this corporation and refuse to let them make a profit in Seattle off the jailing and abuse of our children.

The gentrification and now techieficiation of the Central District, Seattle’s historically Black neighborhood, is well-documented. This has been a civically-supported and politically-funded decimation of the Black community.

More than 56% of the Black residents of the CD were pushed out of the neighborhood between 1990 and 2010 alone. Whether through redlining, weed and seed, or abusive and racist police profiling, Seattle has been complicit in the destruction of Black lives, livelihoods, and neighborhoods.

Seattle’s claims to be progressive and a liberal oasis are a lie.

The progress offered here is only available to the wealthy, the white, and the well-behaved. Our city is not a sanctuary city if poor people are unwelcome; if houseless people are constantly attacked; if the police can kill with impunity; if undocumented people are pursued by ICE and rounded up into detention centers; if there’s no affordable housing.

The site of the project is on stolen Duwamish land.

And the Duwamish people don’t build prisons for children.

Given all this, this is what is required moving forward:

– The sculpture piece The Spirit of Our Youth by indigenous artist Marvin Oliver that was removed in January 2015 must be fully restored and returned to its original site.

– All buildings comprising the current youth jail must be demolished immediately and the land returned to the Duwamish people.

– Every young person inside the current youth jail must be released immediately with their record cleared and paid financial reparations for the harms they have experienced while imprisoned.

– The City of Seattle must return to Black people all lands and homes stolen during the era of “Weed and Seed” in the Central District.

– Claudia Balducci, who has been the public face of this project, is fired immediately and barred from holding any further jobs in government due to her racism, malevolence, and outright lack of ethics. Dow Constantine, the King County Executive pushing the new youth jail, is fired immediately. Mayor Murray is removed from office. All members of the Seattle City Council and the King County Council who have voted for the youth jail in years past admit their culpability and immediately step down.