Urban ArtWorks is Working on a Mural at the old King County Juvenile Justice Center: and it’s a controversial situation.

Here’s a little information about what’s going on, and why we are involved:

The building of the new King County Juvenile Justice Center is cause for debate.  The debate is between two positions on the new King County Juvenile Justice Center, which is already under construction.  

All sides do agree on one thing: the current facility is old and rundown, and needs to be replaced.  The debate, then, is which functions the new building will serve.

There are two different viewpoints that oppose the functions the new building will serve.  The two viewpoints oppose the new facility for completely different reasons.

The first group of people that opposes the new facility takes its rationale from the “”get tough on crime” philosophy, which seeks punishment in the form of harsh jail and prison sentences.  This way of viewing crime is retroactive in nature. Crimes are prosecuted and punishment sought after is to the full extent of the law. This model is outdated and has been proven to be ineffective for reducing crime through deterrence.

The second viewpoint takes its rationale from the fact that people of the first viewpoint want to implement a method of dealing with crime doesn’t work.  In strong opposition to harsh punishment for crimes, they are strong proponents of restorative justice and rehabilitative justice. They don’t want any juveniles to be detained at all.  Instead, they believe the best way to deal with juvenile crime is to offer programs like treatment and community service. While the new facility will see a reduction in the number of beds, the second opposition group says this is still too harsh and not the best use of taxpayer dollars.

The supporters of the new facility do so because its plans call for a splitting up of the building in a diverse and organized manner. According to its plans, it will be an all-encompassing center.  Among the different things it will have are a child-care center, increased space for youth and family programs, a community resource center, improved detention center with 100 beds, and a bike and walk path outside.  Those who support the plans look at it as a vast improvement from the last in terms of the quality and size of the building itself, and the increased focus on proactive methods for dealing with juvenile crime.

In 2010, the three most common offenses that led to youth incarceration were fourth degree assault (domestic violence), residential burglary, and second degree robbery  Second degree robbery is defined as any robbery in which the perpetrator has an accomplice, causes injury to the victim, or commits the act using a deadly weapon such as a gun or knife. 

In 2016, they were fourth degree assault (domestic violence), first degree robbery, and dependency contempt.  1st degree robbery is the same as second degree robbery but, in addition to it, the act resulted in serious physical injury, commits robbery with a deadly weapon, and uses, threatens with or displays a deadly weapon even if it is not used.  

In 2016, fourth degree assault made up 17% of all incarcerations, while all categories of robbery combined made up 12% of all incarcerations.

These statistics show that the most common reasons youth get incarcerated is not what some rhetoric suggests.  It is not murder and rape getting them in jail but, rather, much less serious offenses.

The new facility is equipped to deal with the rare cases of rape and murder.  It is also equipped to better deal with the most common crimes as well, like fourth degree assault and robbery.

The reason fourth degree assault happens is often due to families calling 911 when a kid gets aggresssive or out of hand.  This behavior derives from previous trauma. Therefore, treating that initial underlying trauma is the path to rehabilitating youth and healing this individual, not incarceration.  The new facility being built will be equipped to exercise this model of treating juvenile crime much better than the outdated and undersized current facility.

Because the current facility houses our amazing partners at King County’s Education Employment Program, and because there is also a school in the new facility with teens who need after school jobs, we opted to paint a mural (paid for by percent for the arts) to make the temporary construction zone more inhabitable and positive for those who are using it. This includes youth currently experiencing the hardships of the justice system, who are the population we serve. It is for those employees who work tirelessly to case manage and rehabilitate adjudicated teens.

Alex Johnson, Managing Director for Californians for Safety and Justice, and member of the Creative Youth Development National Advisory Committee, recently spoke about the positive impact art has on the lives of adjudicated youth, “Through art, young people are able to rebuild and restore their lives.  The pain of each of these individuals’ life story, which is often suppressed, is expressed through art and it changes lives and makes individuals ready and able to thrive.” (Heinen, Dawn, Creative Youth Development National Partnership, October 11, 2017, reativeyouthdevelopment.org/2017/10/11/arts-key-strategy-dismantle-change-school-prison-pipeline/)

Alternative solutions to juvenile punishment for crime are less expensive for taxpayers and more effective in reducing crime and rehabilitating our youth.  Nationally, the cost of locking up one juvenile for one year is $35,000 to $64,000. The cost of one of many alternative programs, called Head Start’s intervention program, costs $4,300 per youth per year.  (ACLU, ACLU Fact Sheet on the Juvenile Justice System, October 23, 2017, https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-fact-sheet-juvenile-justice-system).

We hope that through the process our interns will feel they are giving back to those coming behind them to also make a positive impact in their community.

The design for King County’s new facility was dreamed up by Brian Sanchez, who created the shapes and colors based on feedback from our teen interns.  The mission was stated before the project: “Together. The youth, myself and Urban ArtWorks set out to create a design that best represented the mission of the CFCJ.  We talked about the range of support offered through the programs and some of the hardships they were working to overcome. Each shape and color in this project derived from a feeling that related to this process.  Aiming to articulate the diverse community that circulates the facility and compose a mural that felt active, hopeful and uplifting without overlooking the hurdles in this present journey. We are pleased with its outcome and hope you feel the same.”

Go top