Under a joint proposal by King County and the City of Seattle, $16 million in funding for jail operations will be repurposed and put towards community-based health and housing programs.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, members of the King County Council, City of Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, and members of the Seattle City Council today announced a joint proposal to repurpose $16 million in jail operations funding and put that revenue toward community-based health and housing programs that promote upstream safety and health.
The proposal is a part of Executive Constantine’s Omnibus Supplemental Budget Ordinance transmitted to the King County Council on April 15, and furthers King County’s and Seattle’s ongoing work to treat racism as a public health crisis and to decrease the population of the jail.
The new services would focus on health and housing in community settings for residents whose limited access to care is too often criminalized, with a particular focus on racial-ethnic and gender-diverse communities who are disproportionately incarcerated. The funding for the new services will come from revenue that the City of Seattle pays King County for use of the jail.
The proposal also resulted in a reinvigoration of a Seattle-King County Jail Advisory Group that has been meeting since late 2020 to promote collaboration and transparency in solving problems experienced by persons incarcerated within the King County Jail.
"We’re taking strong action to back up our commitment to treat racism as a public health crisis, and ushering in a new era of cooperation," said Executive Constantine. "Our work is not done, but this is an important step to decrease reliance on detention and invest in harm reduction and building safe, welcoming communities where every person can thrive. Undoing racism and supporting healthy communities should not be controversial, and I appreciate the partnership across governments and agencies that is making this possible."
"We're taking strong action to back up our commitment to treat racism as a public health crisis, and ushering in a new era of cooperation. Our work is not done, but this is an important step to decrease reliance on detention and invest in harm reduction and building safe, welcoming communities where every person can thrive. Undoing racism and supporting healthy communities should not be controversial, and I appreciate the partnership across governments and agencies that is making this possible.
We must change our institutions, our investment areas, and our historic practices if we expect to alleviate generations of racism towards Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color. We can make important reductions in jail operations while investing in other alternatives to incarceration and community health and housing.
The American criminal legal system disproportionately harms our Black and brown neighbors by perpetuating grave injustices, such as disproportionate arrests, bias policing and harsh punishments. In 2017, I sponsored legislation directing the City's Budget Office to review the terms of the City's contract with the King County Jail. My goal was to reduce our reliance on incarceration by increasing investments in housing and health programs that will benefit those most harmed by the carceral system. Today, we take an important step towards progress on that goal.
With this commitment, the City and County take a significant step forward in divesting in our historic reliance on carceral responses in exchange for investment in people who are disproportionality harmed by the current system. The Jail Advisory Group will provide transparency and a venue for continued progress.
As the King County Council’s budget chair, I know that the investments that we make at the County level can be transformative for the communities in our region. This reinvestment in community programs and wraparound services rather than in jail costs aims to proactively address the root causes of incarceration rather than simply continue responding to the symptoms. Further, this is an example of the type of interjurisdictional innovation and cooperativeness that is necessary for us to resolve some of the most pressing challenges we face.
Investing public resources into the things that build people and communities up - good health and stable housing, with an intentional focus on gender-diverse and BIPOC residents - is a wise investment in people. I am proud that King County and the City of Seattle are coming together to implement our shared goals of addressing racism as a public health crisis.
Lavender Rights Project and leadership from our WA Black Trans Task Force support King County and the City of Seattle’s investment in proven alternatives to criminalization, punishment, and policing. The Black Trans community needs more housing and not more jail space. We believe in Housing First as a strategy to disrupt violence against Black Trans people and end the criminalization of Black trans and nonbinary gender identities. This is an initial step towards achieving these goals.
For more information, contact:
Chase Gallagher, Executive Office, 206-263-8537