Over the last two decades, Seattle has seen a massive influx of new workers, particularly in the tech industries. City Hall has gone to great lengths to court specific companies through sweetheart deals to mega-corporations and developers. In the meantime, low income Seattleites and people of color, in particular, have been neglected, and the Mayor’s proposed budget continues this tradition of neglect.
With the support of community organizers and social justice advocates, I have presented several amendments to challenge this trend, and amend the current budget to support programs that help longtime Seattleites, particularly people of color, to secure jobs. Today I want to talk about my amendment to fund and strengthen Career Bridge.
Funding Career Bridge
In 1972, the Black Prisoners Caucus was formed at the Washington State Reformatory at Monroe. The Caucus was designed by prisoners for prisoners, with the intention of working collectively to improve relationships, better the facility, and strengthen the community. It also sought to promote cultural growth and provide incarcerated men with the tools and platform necessary to confront social and economic issues that perpetuate discrimination, inequity and oppression among prisoners and poor communities of color.
Since then, the situation has only become worse. Between 1980 and 2008, the American prison population quadrupled from 500,000 to 2.3 million people. The racial disparities that are seen within this population are stark. The NAACP has reported that, as of 2008,
- African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
- African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
- Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
- According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
- One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
- 1 in 100 African American women are in prison
- Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice)
We have an obligation to challenge this New Jim Crow at every level. Funding Career Bridge is one such way we can do that. Career Bridge was created by the Black Prisoners Caucus in order to help prisoners transition into the reliable, well-paying jobs they need to rebuild their lives after the harsh experience of prison.
A recent audit demonstrated that 81% of the men who participated in Career Bridge were able to secure steady jobs, despite the discrimination and hardship that comes with past prison experience.
Recently, former Mayor Mike McGinn detailed how Career Bridge funding was obstructed by the Seattle City Council in 2013.
We can’t let that happen again this year. I have presented an amendment to allocate $400,000 to support Career Bridge’s outreach and work. Together, we need to reach out to all Councilmembers and insist on their support for the invaluable assistance which Career Bridge provides.
Please take just a few minutes right now to contact Councilmembers and ask them to support budget action 109-1-a-1 allocating funding for Career Bridge: