#NoNewYouthJail: Using Positive Psychology for Youth Detention Prevention in Seattle and Across the Country



An introduction to my project!

#NONEWYOUTHJAIL – Background Behind the New Youth Jail and the Reasons for Opposition

In 2012, King County voters voted for a $210 million levy to create a new youth detention center to replace the old one. In voting for this, voters also agreed to an increase in property taxes for the next nine years. The new youth detention center costs a total of $232 million (Fields). Leaders of the community group EPIC (Ending the Prison Industrial Complex) showed concern and disapproval of this new youth detention center (Fields). This movement of opposition to the youth detention center has been represented by the hashtag #NoNewYouthJail. EPIC outlines the reasons for opposition to the New Youth Jail on their website, and their suggested alternative to it (“Why we Oppose”).

Reasons for Opposition (as presented by EPIC):

  • The current youth jail has over-representation of youth of color in the youth detention center (“Why we Oppose”).
    • A large portion of disproportionality is not “explained by differential involvement as measured by arrests” (Harris)
  • The New Youth Jail did not use any racial equity impact assessment to prevent racial inequities to continue in the new youth jail (“Why we Oppose”)
  • Youth detention rates have decreased significantly in Seattle in recent years. “The average daily population was 191 in 1998; in 2012, it was only 70” (“Why we Oppose”)
    • Many youth are detained for non-violent crimes (“Why we Oppose”)
  • Youth detention has a direct relationship with unsuccessful systems of education, especially in Seattle (“Why we Oppose”)
    • “75% of adults who are incarcerated do not have a high school diploma” (Halpert).
This info-graphic highlights some of the inequities in Juvenile Justice in the U.S., and the negative outcomes of incarceration such as increased rates of suicide and mental illness (“Inequality in the Juvenile Justice System”).

Is Incarceration Effective in Rehabilitation?

Not only were there many trends of inequity that caused a lot of people to join EPIC in opposition to the New Youth Jail, there has also been the long-standing question of whether or not incarceration is effective in rehabilitating. There have been many studies that suggest the current structure of the justice system is counter-intuitive to rehabilitation. If anything, it further isolates individuals in the systems and the likelihood of juveniles and adults who are incarcerated returning to jail is higher than never returning.

Ways incarceration is detrimental to an inmate’s mental health, and counter-productive in rehabilitation.

  • Due to the strict structure of detention centers, youth who leave these facilities do not get to practice active decision-making on a regular basis, which makes it difficult for them to make decisions for themselves once they leave these facilities as young adults, and are left with little to no structure (Tomar).
  • Defining purpose for individuals in these facilities becomes increasingly difficult, especially in the time and space they are provided (Tomar).
  • Isolation from family and greater community causes stress and a feeling of irrelevance (Tomar).
  • Fear of threat from others within the facility causes anxiety (Tomar).
  • Some individuals are more or less likely to adjust to prison society. Those who cannot or do not adjust struggle more with mental health and wellness and often are characterized as violent and distressed (Tomar).

Road Map to Zero Youth Detention

Although Seattle is building the new youth jail (all efforts to end the building of the jail by different community organizers have been unsuccessful), in an attempt at addressing opposers’ concerns, Executive Dow Constantine has created a goal and road map to zero youth detention for King County (Kelety). Executive Constantine has included funding in his plan to reach zero youth detention, and has appointed Seattle and King County Public Health for keeping track of progress (Washington State). The road map focuses on investing in organizations that youth already interact with on a regular basis that could help with preventing them from coming in contact with the justice system to begin with. It also touches on many of the reasons that EPIC said they opposed the new jail. For example, reducing racial inequities, addressing the school to prison pipeline, and alternative restorative justice programs for youth who have committed nonviolent crimes for the first offense (Washington State).

What do you think about these two approaches and ideas? Tell me about it!

If you’d like to know a bit more to form your opinions, here are links to EPIC’s suggestions and the official document of the Road Map to Zero Youth Detention.

Made with Padlet
Made with Padlet

Where does positive psychology come in?

Regardless of whether you are in favor of or against the new youth jail, it is undeniable that the juvenile justice system and it’s’ institutions,  across the U.S. and in Seattle, need a significant amount of reform in order for them to be equitable and serve the purpose of rehabilitation. It is why Executive Dow Constantine is working towards the Zero Youth Detention goal, and it is why EPIC opposes the New Youth Jail.

Introducing the program I created to aid youth in building positive relationships with themselves and others, as a step towards rehabilitation!


Link to Works Cited

Share this project
  1. April 24, 2019 by Anne R Bingham

    This project is very detailed! I appreciate how much research is presented here. Explaining the history and impact of EPIC v. Zero Youth Detention is a well executed lesson in itself. You’ve been very thoughtful in coming up with several activities to utilize aspects and resources from Positive Psychology to demonstrate the transformative power of rehabilitation. I think this is a powerful presentation because it is personalized, well-researched, offers concrete steps that our community can take to solve the problem of youth incarceration. Well done!

  2. April 25, 2019 by Addie Behrens

    Hi Hanan! Wow I love your project! There’s so much detail and research and it seems like you put a lot of work into it. I love the interactive portions you put into this project, they really help! Your presentation is very powerful and helps me better understand your topic. Great work!

  3. April 25, 2019 by Moses Rifkin

    This is amazing work, Hanan. I’m proud to know you, and appreciative of the great work you’re doing.

  4. April 25, 2019 by Emily Schorr Lesnick

    This is such an important topic and vital, creative approach. Thank you for your work!

  5. April 27, 2019 by Michaela Kim

    Hi Hanan, I am so so impressed by how deeply you research your project and the amount of passion on your page! I actually live in Seattle, so it was really interesting to read about an issue that is affecting my own community and get different perspectives on it from all over the world (so thank you for the interactive portions!). I was wondering if this is a problem other places in the world are facing, and what they have done/are doing to work through it. Do you know anything about that?

  6. April 28, 2019 by Jill Leahy

    Hanan! This is incredible and you have done amazing work on this. You have clearly put a lot of thought and work in on this. You should be proud of yourself!

  7. May 09, 2019 by Jess Klein

    This is amazing. I am so impressed by the work you’ve shared!

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