When the King County Council unanimously voted to fund Restorative Community Pathways on Nov. 17, 2020, it was the culmination of countless hours of hard work behind the scenes. Hours spent in the streets protesting, in the courtroom arguing and in the community spreading their message. Finally, in a year with so many challenges, there was a sign of hope.
Restorative Community Pathways is a program that seeks to alter the current juvenile legal system and instead invest in a community-driven support system. The system focuses on racial equity and care for the youths, their families, those harmed and the community.
The four organizations banded together for Restorative Community Pathways are CHOOSE 180, Collective Justice, Community Passageways and Creative Justice. Each of the four are local-based and share a common goal of ending youth incarceration.
Working with those organizations and local filmmakers Gavin Sullivan and Bryan Tucker, the Seattle Seahawks helped produce a short documentary for the second year in a row. This year's documentary tells the story of Restorative Community Pathways and it's fight for funding in King County.
"I'm so excited that the King County Council unanimously voted to fully fund Restorative Community Pathways," said Karisa Morikawa, the Director of Community Engagement and Systems Innovation for CHOOSE 180. "This means that King County has committed to divesting millions of dollars from a harmful and punitive system to community-led responses to harm that are rooted in restorative justice."
CHOOSE 180 is an organization that "transforms the lives of youth and young adults by partnering with institutional leaders, connecting them with community, empowering them with choice, and teaching them the skills necessary to avoid engagement with the criminal legal system." For Sean Goode, the Executive Director at CHOOSE 180, his organization's mission hits close to home. His older brother was incarcerated at 13 and wasn't freed until he was 21, as Goode missed out on countless childhood moments with his brother.
"What we've learned over these decades is that when you incarcerate a child, you limit their ability to live beyond a mistake that they may have made," Goode explained. "You prohibit them from truly experiencing the possibility that they are."
Nikkita Oliver, the Co-Executive Director with Creative Justice, has helped with the eight-year fight for No New Youth Jail. No New Youth Jail has pushed for King County to do something different with their funds rather than build the King County Children & Family Justice Center, which cost taxpayers $242 million by its completion in 2020.
"The youth jail took eight years to build," Oliver said. "At every stage of the development process, we asked to halt the building, to put a moratorium on building it, to commit to repurposing the building or not to build it at all."
In July 2020, less than a year after its opening, King County announced plans to close the facility by 2025.
"The criminal justice system has literally decimated our Black community," said Dominique Davis, CEO and Founder of Community Passageways. "It has snatched fathers, brothers, uncles, coaches and mentors out of our community at a rate that I can't even wrap my head around. We're trying to bounce back from this and build back up from this."
In 2019, 38 percent of the King County youth population were BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color). In the same year in the same county, 72 percent of youths prosecuted and 86 percent of youths incarcerated were BIPOC. Davis and his organization are out to change that.
Community Passageways was the subject of last year's documentary and plays an integral role in this year's. Earlier this week, Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs surprised 10 families who belong to the organization with Amazon gift cards for the holiday season.
Morikawa, Goode, Oliver and Davis have all worked together to push for funding for Restorative Community Pathways. They created focus groups with over 50 community providers and met with young adults who have been through the juvenile legal system to see what changes they wanted to make. The answer was clear: young adults believe work in the community is far more effective than incarceration.
"Here in King County, every year about 1,000 young people are prosecuted through the juvenile legal system," Morikawa explained. "In the first year of Restorative Community Pathways, 40 percent of those young people are going to be diverted away from the legal system and instead served directly in community, by community.
"In the next two to three years, we expect that about 70 to 85 percent of young people currently being prosecuted in the legal system would instead be served by Restorative Community Pathways."
Seahawks running back Chris Carson supported CHOOSE 180 by representing the organization for the “My Cause, My Cleats” game earlier this season, saying that CHOOSE 180 was "a story that really resonates" with him.
"All of that is very important," Carson said. "Kids are the future, so giving them every type of help they can get—just because a kid makes a mistake it doesn't make him a bad kid. Anybody can be led in the right direction."
The documentary and work with Restorative Community Pathways is part of the Seahawks' continued support for social justice. More information about the funding of the Restorative Community Pathways program can be found here.
To support the organizations doing this important work in our community, visit the links below to donate: