New jail not best way to address youth crime

NoNewYouthJail_webSolid Ground is joining a broad coalition of community groups led by End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) and Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) campaigning for community-based alternatives to building a new mega-sized youth jail in Seattle-King County.

While we recognize the need to renovate or replace the existing youth jail, we support the No New Youth Jail Campaign’s efforts to slow down the process and bring community leadership into prominence as we chart better ways to address youth crime. We believe the $210 million allocated for building a new youth jail could be invested with more impact through a modest facility upgrade, community-based prevention and diversion strategies, as well as the use of restorative justice practices for youth.

Youth crime is down in King County and the current facility is often not at full capacity. Therefore, we question the wisdom of building a larger jail, which would only reinforce criminalization as a strategy to deal with troubled youth. As an active member in the Equity in Education Coalition in Washington State, we are concerned about failings in our education system that disproportionately impact students of color and funnel kids into the school-to-prison pipeline.

We know from 40 years of experience as a service provider that disadvantaged families and youth need access to a broad range of wraparound services to overcome structural barriers to their success. These interventions and resources are more successful when offered before people get into trouble, not when they are already in jail.

Solid Ground is committed to undoing racism and other oppressions by examining institutional practices and policies that trap people in poverty and hold communities back. Investing $210 million in a mega-jail for youth would clearly reinforce institutional practices and policies that have wreaked havoc on communities of color and people living on low incomes. We look forward to supporting efforts to develop more proactive approaches to reducing crime and supporting youth in creating meaningful roles in our community.

More on the campaign is available on the No New Youth Jail blog.

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