Last week, the Seattle City Council resolved to end the practice of putting young lawbreakers behind bars. Resolution 31614, which passed unanimously, is a commitment to “eliminate the need to detain or incarcerate youth” by cutting off the “school-to-prison pipeline” and finding alternatives to incarceration.
This is a big win for EPIC (Ending the Prison Industrial Complex), the organization that is spearheading the campaign against King County’s plan to build a new, $210 million-dollar juvenile detention center. In a letter addressed to King County Councilmembers, EPIC and its partners – which include the People’s Institute Northwest, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, European Dissent, the NAACP, and others -- outlined their strategy: “We seek to redirect funding away from the mass incarceration of youth of color and towards community-based prevention, intervention and diversion services and programs.”
But what might those services and programs look like, and can we really find ways to keep kids out of jail? EPIC and other community groups are out to answer those questions.
In March, EPIC hosted a tribunal, putting King County on trial for perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline, which removes marginalized youth from a path to graduation and puts them on a path toward the criminal justice system. The practice leads to a disproportionate number of people of color behind bars, according to a recent report on race and Washington’s criminal justice system from the Seattle University law school. In Washington State, black people make up only 4.1 percent of the total population, but 18 percent of the prison population.