Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) Zero Youth Detention Project has opened up grant applications to local groups to create alternative programs for young people of color who might otherwise end up in a cell.
The project is an attempt to block what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline.
Qualified applicants will compete for grants of up to $100,000 to fund programs that redirect young people who are already in the system or prevent them from entering the system in the first place.
Examples include programs that practice restorative justice, arts-based experiences that build leadership among communities of color and family- and community-driven efforts.
The grant application caps the end of a six-month process headed by epic and Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR), joint projects of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and the American Friends Service Committee.
A group of about 22 came together to hash out how to use $500,000 the Seattle City Council allocated to end youth detention. That meant defining what groups the programs would benefit, what aspects of the prison industrial complex they were meant to disrupt and what a community-based solution to the problem would look like.
“It’s not a typical grant-making process,” said Karen Toering, a senior project manager with Social Justice Fund.
Next comes the work of reviewing gaps in existing systems, evaluating applications and doing site visits to take a closer look at proposed programs.
Applications are due by Oct. 3. The process is meant to target groups that are led by communities targeted by youth detention, are accountable to communities disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration, have a commitment to ending mass incarceration, work mainly with residents of Seattle and try to foster the collective powers of youth and families targeted by mass incarceration.
The grants represent one of many strategies by epic and yuir to combat the school-to-prison pipeline in Seattle and King County. Another took aim directly at the youth detention center, specifically a new building called the Children and Family Justice Center, a $210 million building funded by taxpayers that is meant to replace the aging youth detention center on 12th Avenue and East Alder Street.
Activists have challenged the building using the zoning code and arguments focused on special permissions that City Hall would have to grant to let the building go forward. epic also filed a lawsuit at the end of April that alleged the ballot language for the funding initiative was misleading.
A Pierce County Superior Court judge granted King County attorneys a dismissal at the end of August.
Although levels of youth detention are lower than ever, the system still disproportionately impacts people of color at all ages.
According to King County, 47 percent of inmates admitted to the King County youth detention facility were Black. Black people represent 6.2 percent of the county’s population, according to the 2014 update to census data.