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Protester explains opposition to new King County juvenile detention center

Protesters block traffic in Seattle in March as they protest a the new King County juvenile detention center. (KIRO 7)

The message a group of protesters tried to get across earlier this month was drowned out by the frustration over the gridlock they caused.

RELATED: Why SPD did not arrest traffic-snarling protesters

But on Monday, March 26, we got word that the protesters were back. This time, they were at the site of King County’s new juvenile detention center. Officially known as the Children and Family Justice Center, the facility is under construction.

The protesters want the $210 million project shut down.

KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross asked one of the protesters what they are asking for.

“The issue for me is, I think youth incarceration is unnecessary and deeply harmful. So I think we’re here today to send the message that it’s not something we want to see in our county,” a woman who identified herself as Jed Walsh said.

So then what should we do in cases where someone who has made poor decisions may be dangerous?

She says more resources and investments need to be made in communities of color, to give children the same opportunities white children have. Let’s explore what led to an individual to act a certain way, instead of locking them up, she said.

But what about if someone is intending to cause harm here and now?

“I don’t think we should have a society with cops. I think we need to abolish the police and that’s part of the problem, it’s a racist structure as well as prisons are a racist structure.”

Walsh says most of the children taken to a youth jail are not there for violent offenses. Therefore, she says, violence is not a justification for a youth jail.

She added that harm often comes to children in juvenile detention centers and the new facility won’t be any better than the old one.

King County responds to juvenile detention center protest

Walsh also says the county has taken “false steps” in response to the group’s demands.

RELATED: Open letter to City of Seattle

On Monday, King County Executive Dow Constantine released this statement:

“I am aware of the activities at the Children and Family Justice Center, and I have read the recent correspondence from the No New Youth Jail Coalition. We continue to invite all those interested in youth welfare and juvenile justice to join a full dialogue with King County and our community partners as we do the difficult work to further reduce the number of youth in detention.

I do not believe keeping kids in the current decrepit and disrespectful facility is the right solution. Moving young people to adult jail also takes us in the wrong direction. In fact, I issued an Executive Order directing that all young people charged as adults be moved to the juvenile facility so that they can receive more age-appropriate services and programming.

While we complete the CFJC, we will continue to modify the new, smaller detention consistent with a public health approach to support youth and families before, during and after they are involved in the justice system. I have accepted an invitation to debate this issue on the Seattle Channel, and I look forward to a lively exchange of views.”

Listen to the entire conversation here.

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