Youth jail opponents granted the right to appeal the project | KUOW News and Information

Youth jail opponents granted the right to appeal the project

Jun 2, 2017

The proposal for a King County youth jail was sailing through the approval process—but may now face roadblocks. The Seattle City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to let people appeal the jail's permit.

The City of Seattle issued a land use permit for a new youth detention center earlier this year. A document error prevented opponents from being able to appeal it. Councilmember Mike O'Brien sponsored the measure to fix the error. He says the public deserves their right to appeal the project.

O'Brien: "The county has argued that they think they will win on the merits of the appeal. That's not for me or us to decide, that's for a hearing examiner or a judge to decide, but I do believe the citizens have a right to appeal the permit like they would any other master use permit."

The City Council vote Tuesday reignited public debate about the jail. Councilmember Bruce Harrell shared his concerns about building a new detention center.

Harrell: "In this country, we know we are at war with this evil called mass incarceration, so can we do more? That's what the communities are asking us."

He said the war on drugs and mass incarceration are especially harmful to communities of color. Youth jail opponents say the money should instead be spent on programs to keep kids out of lockup.

King County officials, however, have not backed down from the proposal. County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg told Seattle lawmakers that if people appeal the jail permit, it will just slow down construction.

Satterberg: "What further delay costs you and I and costs the tax payers of the city and the county, is $500,000 a month. So a half a million dollars a month, I would sure like to have that money to invest in other programs for youth."

He says there are youth involved in serious crimes, including shootings, and that's why juvenile detention centers are needed. King County leaders say a new youth jail is necessary because the current one is aging. 

It's is unclear what will happen to the land use permit for the jail, now that people can appeal it. O'Brien says a judge could decide to hear a challenge, which would halt plans for construction.