As a former King County Prosecuting Attorney, I’ve seen how alternatives to long jail time can change lives. These alternatives are also cost effective for the taxpayer.
We on the City Council have been discussing “alternatives to incarceration” as research comes in demonstrating their effectiveness. I support these alternatives. They work. Whether we are considering adults or youth, we have options to reduce racial injustice without compromising on public safety.
During our budget review process, my colleagues and I are reviewing two focused tools that can be effective in helping non-violent offenders learn new patterns of behavior. I support investments in these and other programs designed to offer those who commit low level crimes to take personal responsibility for their own behavior.
- Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program, our nationally recognized local model that offers support to those who commit low level drug crimes or persons who are prostituted. Offenders are eligible for addiction treatment and housing. Based on preliminary assessments from the first program in Belltown, we are seeing lower crime rates and lower recidivism rates from those in the program. This program deserves more investment and further investigation
- Restorative Justice Program. I saw the powerful potential of the Restorative Justice approach in my role of Chief Civil Deputy at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. It involves direct mediation between the victim and the offender. The restorative justice approach focuses on repairing harm done and—where both parties are willing—help them reach an understanding about the impact of the crime on the victim and the cause behind the perpetrator’s actions.
The City of Seattle and King County have joined forces to consider what can be done to reduce racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system and promote the well-being of youth and families at the new Family and Youth Justice Center. I am excited by the ongoing partnership beween the County and the City on this issue.
Our legal system has opened its eyes to important alternatives that can repair people’s lives. Finally, we are gathering enough evidence to show that these alternatives are practical cost effective tools to include in our public safety policies. I believe they are also good, moral approaches to repairing lives and healing communities.
I’m working with our police, our city attorney, and our municipal court judges to promote and fund diversion alternatives. These are options we should invest in to increase public safety, decrease racial disproportionality our criminal justice system and—most importantly—help rebuild lives.