Dec 24, 2016 - Native Prisoners Rights Advocacy Group Opposes New Youth Detention Facility

On December 22nd, the City of Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) approved a permit for the construction of a new $210 million youth detention center.

The controversial new King County’s Children and Family Justice Center, which would increase the capacity to detain youth, has drawn fierce opposition from the area’s communities of color and from regional Tribal leaders, including the Native American prisoner rights advocacy group, Huy.

In a letter to the Seattle City Council Huy, which is chaired by Gabe Galanda, highlighted the disproportionate rates in which Native youth are incarcerated.

Native youth are the most vulnerable group of children in the United States. Over a quarter of Indian children live in poverty. Native youth graduate from high school at a rate 17 percent lower than the national average, and are more than twice as likely to die as their non-Native peers. Native youth suffer the highest juvenile suicide rate in the country, at more than double rate for the Caucasian youth suicide. Native youth experience PTSD at a rate of 22 percent — triple that of the general population.

Making such horrible realities even worse, juvenile detention facilities, like the proposed King County facility, house a disproportionately high number of Native youth. Nationally, Native American youth are 30 percent more likely than Caucasian youth to be referred to juvenile court than have charges dropped, which results in their early entry into the system—perhaps without return. In our experience, local Native youth are infrequently offered opportunities for diversion. These points track with findings of the Washington Supreme Court’s Task Force on Race and the Criminal Justice System, which reveals persistent disparate treatment of Native youth at each stage of Washington’s juvenile system.”

Read Huy letter in full here

According to the Stranger, a local news publication,”As of 2014, 3.1 percent of King County juvenile justice referrals were made up of Native American youth, and just 23 percent of those referrals—the lowest of any ethnic group—were diverted to alternative programs outside of detention. Across King County Native American youth make up just 1 percent of the population, but inside the detention center, they make up 7 percent of detainees.”

The approval for the multi-million Youth Detention facility was approved for 120 beds.  In 2016, only 27 youth were detained at the current youth detention facility.

by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle- Lakota)

Last Real Indians