July 17, 2024 6:37 pm

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Commentary: Vote No New Lynnwood Jail

Editor’s Note: The comments below are not those of the Lynnwood Times and is the opinion of an individual resident. None of statements below have been factchecked nor verified for accuracy. The Lynnwood Times will continue to provide a platform for all views on any subject or social issue.

Along with the rest of America, Lynnwood residents are becoming increasingly aware of racial injustice and violence towards people of color. We believe that, as our constitution says, all people are created equal.

Jails disproportionately criminalize people who are poor and Black or brown. A jail holds people after arrest and before conviction of a crime. People who can, pay bail to get out of jail quickly. Jails primarily house those who can’t afford to pay bail or aren’t allowed to.

18 months into COVID-19, our community needs affordable housing, mental and public health care, and childcare – not a new jail. Jails don’t make our community safer. Community resources do. Instead of funding vital resources, Lynnwood City Council plans to build a new misdemeanor jail. Unanimous approval of this project came during the Derek Chauvin trial. The current jail has 46 beds, the new jail will have 149. To fill those 149 beds, Lynnwood will rent out beds to neighboring cities in Snohomish County. This is trading & incarcerating human beings for money.

Amidst this backdrop, a Black woman, Tirhas Tesfatsion, died in Lynnwood City jail on July 13, 2021, after being arrested for an alleged DUI. Drug and alcohol disorders are health issues. We must stop criminalizing them.

The Lynnwood Jail couldn’t keep Tirhas safe while incarcerated. All encounters with police are traumatic. Imagine being pulled over as a Black person. For a Black woman with possible mental health concerns? The fear is unimaginable.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in Washington jails/prisons. No wonder. The Lynnwood Jail is responsible for failing to protect Tirhas Tesfatsion at her most desperate hour. She needed care. Instead, she was traumatized, punished, and shamed. And it cost her life.

On July 26, 2021, Tirhas’ family and community demanded Lynnwood City Council postpone their final vote to approve the contractor and bid on the Community Justice Center for three months. On August 2, City Council voted to postpone the vote on the jail bid to September 13.

Tell Lynnwood City Council: Vote No New Lynnwood Jail. Stop the expansion of the Community Justice Center. If Lynnwood wants to build a Community Justice Center, build one that is just and fair, with affordable housing, childcare, mental health services, and addiction treatment. Because the community has told you what they need! And it’s not a new jail!

Jennifer Paterson McLaughlin, has an MA in Social Justice from Prescott College and is Vice Chair of the Lynnwood DEI Commission (my views are my own and do not represent the Commission).

3 Responses

  1. I vote no for the Lynnwood Justice Center in the Lynnwood jail there’s not any reason that I can think of they need anything of this nature I’ve seen the engineering of the building and what it will look like but what a waste of money it is as well as the transit that has been approved and is going in.

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