City Council Hearing: Changing the Law to Allow Permit Appeal?

Tuesday night, May 16, people opposing the new youth jail project turned out in force to tell the Seattle City Council we want them to fix a loophole in the law that the Hearing Examiner used to avoid ruling on the appeal of the jail’s Master Use Permit.  Local news covered the hearing and included some coverage of the May Day protest at the youth jail.

Watch the video here:


Don’t miss this article about how Seattle activists blocked a police bunker project!

While we continue to struggle to stop the youth jail building project, it is inspiring to celebrate a major victory that happened this past year in Seattle. Due to the bold, disruptive, unstoppable efforts of Seattle organizers and activists, the City tabled its plans to build a $150 million new bomb-proof police bunker! Here is a new article about that work.

12 Points Against the Youth Jail

Autonomous Actions Against Prisons recently published a very useful 12 Points document, below.

12 Points Against the 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 detention center for kids.

This project is an old-fashioned backroom door 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 just means they are going to make tons of cash for developers and profitmongers.

This County claims it is legally required to imprison youth. That is a lie.

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 because they want fancy new chambers.

The judges have long demanded fancier courtrooms and nicer private chambers for themselves. They were the champions of this project from the beginning. 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 statements against the youth jail while at the same time secretly pressuring others to continue to move forward with the project. City councilmembers who repeatedly voted to approve the jail are now crying crocodile tears and wringing their hands about the harms of youth detention. These politicians want to look progressive by making empty statements about the problems of youth incarceration now that the campaign against the jail has exposed it as a racist scam. If they wanted to stop the jail building, they could.

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 up to 12% of young people are sexually assaulted while in jail, 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.

Already more than 56% of the Black residents of the CD have been pushed out of the neighborhood between 1990 and 2010. Whether through red-lining, weed and seed, or abusive and racist police profiling, Seattle has been complicit in the destruction of Black lives.

Seattle’s claim to be progressive and liberal is 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 and maligned; if the police can kill with impunity; if there’s no affordable housing available; if the city invests in more ways to imprison rather than helping vulnerable people survive.

All of King County is 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.

– King County immediately places the $210 million dollars previously tied to the new youth jail under the authority of formerly incarcerated youth and youth of color, who will have complete control in determining how the money can be spent to benefit them, their schools, families, communities, and lives.




Updates about the Jail

Apologies for lack of recent updates on the jail. There has been a lot going on, this will be a brief summary.

In December, we found out that the City planned to grant its permits for the new jail (the County has to get permits from the City) during Christmas week to try to avoid facing community response. We turned out in force to a press conference held by elected officials to declare WA a “Hate-Free State.” 
We disrupted the remarks of Mayor Murray and County Executive Dow Constantine, exposing their hypocrisy as they promoted themselves as anti-racists while planning the new youth jail and trying to sneak its next phase by during the week of a major holiday.

Later that week we gathered for a large protest in front of Mayor Ed Murray’s home, demanding that he deny the jail permits and stop the project. Here is an op-ed by law professors opposing the jail from that same week.

The Master Use Permit (MUP) was ultimately granted by the city. Here is our press release responding. The next step was that over 75 organizations, mostly organizations that serve community most impacted by youth criminalization, submitted an appeal of the permit.

In January, it seemed like the tide was turning. A letter from Ed Murray to Dow Constantine was leaked, in which Murray stated opposition to the project. This was followed by a statement from Dow Constantine trying to look like he cares about racism and youth criminalization while still justifying the new jail. City Councilmembers Demboski and Harrell also showed up to the game with a statement against the jail.

But then the Hearing Examiner charged with looking at the appeal to the MUP issued a terrible ruling. The Examiner found that even though the ordinance clearly states that appeals are allowed and the MUP itself said that appeals are allowed, appeals are not allowed. This strained reading is clearly an attempt to stop communities of color from having their concerns about the jail heard. Murray has been trying to distance himself from this unpopular project because it is an election year, but his own attorneys filed a motion to dismiss that resulted in silencing the appeal of community organizations. Dow Constantine pretends that he cares about racism, and is aiming to promote himself as a juvenile justice reformer in this election year, but his attorneys filed a motion to dismiss that resulted in this silencing.


This week, Councilmember O’Brien made this statement, saying that the legislative intent of the ordinance was to allow the appeal. It is unclear what will happen with that process. What is clear is that the Mayor, the County Executive and the City and County Councils have felt our heat and are scrambling around, trying to keep pushing this horrible project through while simultaneously distancing themselves from it. Now is a great time to tell them exactly what you think of building this jail. Request a live meeting with Dow to tell him what you think! Write emails to all of them! Turn up at their campaign events and hold them responsible for their actions. Don’t be shy.

*Updated Alert* – Stop the Architecture of Misery THIS MONDAY!

*Updated Alert* – Stop the Architecture of Misery THIS MONDAY

On Monday, February 9th, King County Council will attempt to take another step on their misguided path to spend $210 million to build a new youth jail complex for King County’s youth by voting on the design-build team for the proposed facility. Community members successfully took over the January 28thmeeting of the Budget and Finance Committee, stopping the vote that day. The full Council intends to vote on the contract THIS MONDAY, as well as voting to add $1 million dollars to recruit people of color to build the jail complex. The tide is turning against this plan, and we must keep pushing for NO NEW YOUTH JAIL!

(scroll down to “What Can I Do” for action items)


  • On December 10, 2014, King County announced that a contractor and two architects, known together as a “design-build” team, had been selected for the new youth jail project
  • Both the contractor, Howard S. Wrightand the architectural firms HOK and Integrus Architecture have profited from their so-called “justice” portfolios– designing and building police stationsjails, and prisons  to house the infrastructure of the racist criminal punishment system.
  • The February 9th vote by the King County Council would approve granting these prisoner-profiteering companiesa contract to design and build courts and cages for King County’s youth, spreading the architecture of misery.
  • The County is pushing through the vote because they want the “guaranteed price” on the contract– if they don’t vote by February 13th, the contractors could raise the cost on building new cages for our youth. We say: vote no, and use the money to support youth and their families instead! 
  • The King County Council will also be voting on spending $1 million dollars for a ‘targeted hiring’ program– to recruit and train people of color, women, and youth to work on building a jail complex where youth of color will be locked up and families of color torn apart. Our communities need jobs, but we reject jobs building a jail complex for our own youth!
    • As opposition to the project grows, King County is being pushed to answer directly to community members. After announcing the contractor/architect selection in December, the County began advertising an “open house” on January 24thto receive community input.
    • On January 23rdthe County cancelled the open house, opting instead for a “virtual” open house. This move limits feedback on the design to those with internet connection and computer access. More importantly, the cancelled open house signals that our opposition is working– so much so that the County is afraid to confront real people in real time about the controversial project.
    • The King County Council has to voteto approve the design/build team. They’d planned to vote on January 28th, but by taking over that meeting, we’ve forced them to hold a public hearing on the vote. Let’s show up again this Monday, February 9th and stop the County from moving forward with this project!

WHAT CAN I DO? *updated*

Keep the pressure on by telling the County to stop this jail-building project and instead invest in real solutions

  • Show Up and Speak Up:Come in person to show your opposition: January 28, 2015, 1:30 p.m., Room 1001 at 516 3rd Avenue. Bring a sign! (check out the websites below for more info). Can’t come at 1:30? We’ll be there as long as it takes – check for updates!
  • E-mail King County Council Members and let them know you want them to vote NO on the ordinance approving the development contract for the Children and Family Justice Center (Ordinance No. 2014‑0486) and on the ordinance appropriating 1 million dollars for the so-called “Economic Opportunity and Empowerment Program” (Ordinance No. 2015‑0066)

o   Cut and paste these e-mails into your browser:;;;

  • Learn More/Stay Connected: 

o   Check out and for updates and talking points.

o   RSVP here for the upcoming People’s Tribunal on the Juvenile Justice System.