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No New Youth Jail

This petition had 1,784 supporters

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. 

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