King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson wants to keep pretrial defendants with violent histories from being released into community corrections, reports the Seattle Times. Judges object to the idea because they will lose discretion over individual cases. Ferguson, who chairs the law and justice committee and is running for state attorney general, acknowledges that alternatives to incarceration work well most of the time. The programs spare defendants charged with nonviolent crimes from costly stays in jail.
Ferguson’s proposal would affect 1 percent of the 1,000 pretrial defendants ordered annually into alternatives to jail. Those defendants already have a violent-crime conviction at the time they are charged with new violent crimes and released into community corrections. “Community corrections was never intended for people with serious violent convictions,” Ferguson said. The council analyzed 18 months of data and found just 15 defendants who would have been barred from community corrections by Ferguson’s proposal. Ferguson has since widened his proposal to also prohibit defendants charged with serious domestic-violence crimes.