Seattle will begin a pilot project March 1 that to change the way it deals with some people who commit such misdemeanors as urinating in public or shoplifting, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Instead of sending them to jail, the City Attorney’s Office and the Municipal Court will give about 10 people each week the option of doing community service in the neighborhood where they committed the crime.
Said City Attorney Tom Carr: “I think we’re the 26th (city) nationwide to do this. It started in Manhattan to try to find a new way of dealing with the crimes the street population commits and the lack of utility in jailing people. There’s one down in Portland that seems to be a pretty effective way of dealing with street alcoholics and drug users. Things like urinating in public or shoplifting make up a huge chunk of our jail costs, $130 for a booking and $92 a day to jail someone.” A court will hear designated cases every afternoon. Said Carr: “We’re going to link each person (criminal) with social services. We’re looking at getting to that long-term street person — or … the person who’s been on the streets a short time but looks like they might be there forever — the help they need to redirect their lives.”