Seattle Officials Set Plan to Handle Low-Level Offenders

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Months after businesses asked local leaders for a “wholesale reform” of Seattle’s criminal justice system, officials announced a suite of programs aimed at addressing repeat offenders who cycle in and out of jail, often for petty crimes and misdemeanors, and who struggle with substance use and mental health, the Seattle Times reports. Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes, King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, announced four programs focused on providing more places for this population to get treatment, as well as more incentives for them to seek that treatment. The announcement came in response to a large-scale effort by area business leaders to address this population.

That campaign was punctuated by a controversial report that looked at 100 so-called “prolific offenders” in Seattle. Written by former city attorney candidate Scott Lindsay on behalf of several business districts, the report found that these offenders usually committed the same crimes in the same neighborhood, and cycled in and out of jail. The new programs would cost the city almost $3 million, while the county would kick in $2.4 million. The programs could come online late this year or in early 2020, Durkan and Constantine promised. The city and county will work together to fund a 60-bed treatment center, with case-management and behavioral-health services available, in the King County Jail at a cost of $4 million for capital, and $800,000 for annual operations. Durkan also proposed putting $170,000 toward a new probation program in Seattle Municipal Court focused on interventions such as shortening sentences for offenders willing to get into treatment. “To be clear, no one is saying any of these pilots alone is solving the problem,” Durkan said. “Cities have become the new safety net of America, but cities alone do not have the capacity to address these issues.”

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