January 16 | 3PM: The Occupation Begins!

Press Advisory: For Immediate Release

For media queries, please contact the Schools Not Jails Media Team: schoolsnotjails@gmail.com

JANUARY 16: OCCUPY FOR SCHOOLS NOT JAILS LAUNCHES A FIVE-DAY ENCAMPMENT AT THE SITE OF THE PROPOSED YOUTH JAIL FACILITY IN EAST BALTIMORE

On January 16, in honor of Martin Luther King Day and the call for a nationwide Occupy the Dream day of action, the Schools Not Jails working group will launch a five-day occupation of the proposed site of the juvenile detention center at 600 East Monument Street in East Baltimore. Developed in collaboration with Occupy Baltimore and the Baltimore Algebra Project, this time-delimited, non-violent action is intended to bring the energy of the international Occupy movement to bear on a pressing local issue: the budgeting priorities of the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland, and the decision to allocate $100 million in state funds to the construction of the 180-bed facility, while the city of Baltimore struggles to balance the budget and cuts funding for education and youth-oriented resources, like the Baltimore City Recreation Centers, which are slowly being privatized or closed as public funds are withdrawn.

The Schools Not Jails Occupation will begin with a public rally at 3PM on Monday, January 16 in front of Central Booking (300 E. Madison Street, at the corner of Fallsway and Madison). Speakers include Lester Spence (Johns Hopkins University) and Maryland Shaw (Baltimore Algebra Project), as well as organizers from Occupy Baltimore and other Baltimore-based organizing initiatives. The rally will conclude with a march to the proposed site of the youth jail (600 E. Monument), where organizers say they will build a temporary encampment, and remain until the morning of Saturday, January 21. Meals are being provided by a host of local businesses, including Two Boots Pizza and Joe Squared, as well as teams of volunteers, and a full program of events will take place throughout the week, highlighting topics that range from the current state of public education in Baltimore to models for participatory budgeting and development. A full calendar of events may be found at: http://schoolsnotjails.wordpress.com/

Organizers of the Schools Not Jails Occupation say they hope that the action will raise awareness around the already existing Stop the Youth Jail Alliance (http://stopbaltimoreyouthjail.com/) and place public pressure on city and state lawmakers to question the efficacy of the proposed detention center. In 2011, the State Department of Public Safety and Corrections joined with OSI-Baltimore and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to commission the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (one of the nation’s oldest nonprofit criminal justice research organizations, based in Oakland, California) to re-evaluate the state’s need for the jail. At minimum, the researchers determined, the proposed jail could be greatly downsized, and with basic policy changes, simply not needed. Organizers say that calling into question the social, political, and economic priorities implicit in the construction of the youth jail is a specific goal of the Schools Not Jails Occupation. A full statement on goals and strategies for the action may be found at http://schoolsnotjails.wordpress.com/goals-strategies/.

Organizers say that the encampment is open to anyone willing to act with openness and respect. While a core group of individuals have committed to keeping a 24-hour presence at the site throughout the week, organizers hope the encampment will grow over the course of the five days, and encourage the participation of all residents of the city of Baltimore at the workshops and teach-ins throughout the week.

For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact the Schools Not Jails Media Team: schoolsnotjails@gmail.com, or visit the Schools Not Jails website at http://schoolsnotjails.wordpress.com.

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