No New Youth Jail
King County plans to build a new youth jail costing $210 million. In response, community members, grassroots organizations, students, attorneys and activists have worked to stop the construction of a new youth jail and to bring an end to state violence against youth of color through the No New Youth Jail Campaign. Even Seattle’s City Council has passed a resolution against youth incarceration in response to the jail building and the protest movement opposing it.
Why do so many people in King County oppose the building of the new youth jail? The juvenile punishment system in King County is severely racially targeted. According to a March 2012 report by the Task Force on Race and the Criminal Justice System, black youth are twice as likely as white youth to be arrested. Black and native youth are more than twice as likely as white youth to be referred to court and youth of color are less likely to be referred to diversion programs. Black youth make up only 6% of the Washington youth population but 21% of youth sentenced to Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration facilities.
Towards the end of 2015, the King County Bar Association (KCBA), a voluntary professional association, made a controversial move in favor of the new youth jail. KCBA sent a message to all its members asking that they send an email to the Seattle City Council in support of the new youth jail. Additionally, KCBA trivialized the opposition to the jail project, writing, "as champions of an excellent justice system, the attorneys and judges of King County know that it's time to implement the will of the whole community, not just a small group of protesters."
In response to KCBA’s actions in support of the new jail, Miguel Willis, a law student at SU Law and Chair of the school’s Black Law Student Association chapter, resigned as the SU KCBA representative. Janet Rodrigues, another law student at SU Law inspired by Miguel Willis and other community organizers opposing the new youth jail, renounced her KCBA Minority Scholarship. Janet renounced a scholarship that seeks rectify the consequences of racial marginalization, yet Janet refuses to be tokenized as a minority law student scholar while KCBA supports a jail building project that targets and harms communities of color in King County. Rather than supporting her principled leadership, SU Law has informed Janet she has to come up with the $3000 deficit.
Sign this petition to support this campaign and send the letter below to the KCBA.
- King County Bar Association
Dear Mr. Prazuch and the King County Bar Association,
I am writing in response to the new youth jail “Action Alert” you emailed to the King County Bar Association (“KCBA”) membership listserv on October 30, 2015. I refuse to support the KCBA based on your position, offensive message, and unwillingness to acknowledge the offense or take remedial action. I write in solidarity with Ending the Prison Industrial Complex, former KCBA representative from Seattle University School of Law Miguel Willis, former Seattle University School of Law KCBA Minority Scholarship recipient Janet Rodrigues, and community members who have been working in opposition to the construction of the new youth jail.
Your agenda is racist. You have refused to acknowledge and/or been dismissive about how race is related to incarceration. While only 10% of Martin Luther King Jr. County’s population is black, nearly 50% of the youth detention population is black with growing disproportionality. At a time of heightened sensitivity and concern about race and the justice system, KCBA remains silent. You have not taken any meaningful steps to educate yourselves or your membership about structural racism and incarceration, which makes your association a perpetuator of the structurally racist status quo.
Your email characterized opposition to the youth jail as a “small group of opponents of incarceration.” You emphasized this disparaging characterization throughout your email as “a small but very vocal group of opponents...arguing that incarceration of youth is bad public policy.” Lastly, you wrote that “as champions of an excellent justice system, the attorneys and judges of King County know that it’s time to implement the will of the whole community, not just a small group of protesters.” How can a system that disproportionately punishes communities of color be “excellent” and just? You have received several comments that aim to correct your mischaracterization of the opposition to the youth jail, but you have taken no steps to inform your membership about the strong responses you have received from professional communities and communities of color about the problematic nature of your “Action Alert.”
The voices you silence are the voices of those most affected in the community by the facility you advocate. As community members, “we must recognize the voices of those most impacted by the justice system.” KCBA does not embody these values and I will not support such an organization.
 King County Youth Justice, King County, http://kcyouthjustice.com/statistics/ (last visited Feb. 18, 2016). See also EPIC Comment Letter, Youth Jail, MUP 3020285, to the Department of Planning and Development (Nov. 15, 2015), available at http://www.thestranger.com/images/blogimages/2015/11/18/1447888337-epic_comments_on_king_county_proposed_youth_jail.pdf; A Coalition of Nine Legal and Youth Service Organizations, Guest Editorial: As Lawyers and Advocates for Incarcerated Youth, We Support Eventually Eliminating Youth Detention, The Stranger (Jan. 11, 2016 12:42 PM) http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2016/01/11/23409842/guest-editorial-as-lawyers-and-advocates-for-incarcerated-youth-we-support-eventually-eliminating-youth-detention
 Email from Andrew J. Prazuch, Executive Director of the King County Bare Association, to KCBA Listserv (Oct. 30, 2015, 10:26 AM PST).
 Letter from a Coalition of Concerned Law Students from Seattle University and University of Washington, to the Department of Planning and Development (Nov. 15, 2015), available at http://www.thestranger.com/images/blogimages/2015/11/18/1447888365-deny_project__302045_-_a_coalition_of_concerned_law_students__final_.pdf
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