Spencer Kelly – The Daily of the University of Washington – Two UW law students, Tadeu Velloso and Travis Mann, are leading students in the opposition of the construction of a new juvenile detention center on 1211 East Alder Street in central Seattle.

The $210 million “Children and Family Justice Center” was approved in a 2012 special election. According to King County’s website, the project includes 10 courtrooms and 11 living halls with 112 beds for detained minors. The new center is set to be built on the site of the current juvenile detention center, which is in disrepair and too large for current detention numbers.

Velloso and Mann’s first step was co-authoring a letter, which was then opened up to UW community members for feedback and edits. The final document was signed by students and student organizations before being sent to the King County Department of Planning and Development.

Velloso, president of the UW Latino Law Student Association, said a new detention center will have long-term ramifications in the community.

“This isn’t a singular issue that’s in a vacuum, existing only in this moment in time,” Velloso said. “This is going to have a large impact. It’s going to have an effect on our kids.”

Velloso is also concerned with the disproportional incarceration of minority youth. According to The Seattle Times, African-American youth currently make up roughly 50 percent of the incarcerated population, while comprising only 10 percent of the overall youth population.

“It is deceptively worded. Just look at the name itself,” Mann said. “‘The Children and Family Justice Center.’ You are not really implying what it actually is doing, which is locking up children.”

The measure to fund the new project narrowly passed by approximately a 5 percent majority in an election with low voter turnout.

In September, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to work toward zero youth incarceration. Many in the community believe building a new detention facility is counterproductive to this goal.

“To us it is extremely contradictory to spend $210 million investing in further incarceration of youth, when you have another resolution that says we are actually going to invest in the future of our children,” Mann said. “We know that youth detention and the current child welfare system do not actually support the children.”

Amid a community pushback, the King County Bar Association (KCBA) is one of the few organizations actively supporting the continuation of the project. According to a 2012 KCBA Bulletin written by then-president Joe Bringman, the current center has a myriad of issues including failing plumbing, poor climate control, and elevator malfunctions. The oldest sections of the center, which house Juvenile Court and Juvenile Court Services, were built between the early ’50s and ’70s.

Health risks are also a factor in these court buildings. Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), a dangerous industrial compound, was discovered throughout the structures, leading to a Hazardous Building Materials Survey and a temporary shutdown in 2010. The PCBs were eventually removed and the court buildings reopened.

Velloso and Mann made it clear they aren’t leading the protest, rather their goal is to get UW students involved.

“Having that UW brand means a lot to the people in the community,” Velloso said.

The letter authored by Velloso and Mann was signed by over a dozen organizations from the UW and Seattle University, including the UW Black Law Students Association, UW Public Interest Law Association, and the UW Center for Human Rights and Legislation.

To view original article click here: UW Law Students Tackle Youth Detention