by J Seattle
(This article was originally published on Capitol Hill Seattle)
A group of protesters targeting King County Executive Dow Constantine and the under construction 12th Ave Children and Family Justice Center blocked the street outside the county administrative building at 4th and James Friday morning.
Seven demonstrators including members of the Ending the Prison Industrial Complex activist group were locked together in a “moving blockade” with a large group of protesters also on the sidewalk and others waving flags to help block the street.
Police responded to the scene which began unfolding around 8 AM. Traffic was fully blocked on 4th Ave and many streets leading into the area were gridlocked including access to the King County Jail. Traffic was also reported backing up on the I-5 and I-90 freeways. Authorities were suggesting people consider traveling by light rail to get through the downtown area.
In October, CHS reported on the ongoing construction at the 12th Ave facility even as the EPIC group touted a victory in court against a funding calculation used by the county.
The new facility is under construction on the same campus as the existing juvenile justice center along 12th Ave about a block south of the Seattle University campus. King County has been looking to replace the courthouse and administrative buildings for years and is building a new jail along with them. The recession of 2008 held up plans for the expensive project, but the county passed a roughly $210 million levy in 2012. CHS reported here on the county’s efforts to show its changing approach to juvenile crime and justice.
According to officials, the aging 12th and Alder facility held an average daily population in 2016 of 51 juveniles, down 16 percent from 2015, and an even steeper drop from 1998 when the facility routinely held more than 150 people. Meanwhile, another 17-20 juveniles on average are held in the adult facility in Kent, owing to regulations surrounding their age and the crimes involved.
EPIC and anti-youth jail activists have been at odds with King County for more than five years. The newly formed Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County has also criticized the project. “The County already knows investing in prevention has a proven return that far outpaces the financial and social burden of locking up children,” the group writes. “Prevention and alternatives to incarceration are not only cheaper, they strengthen families and communities.”
Featured image by Alex Garland