Local Groups to Decide Punishments in WA Experiment

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The King County Council in Seattle approved funding for a groundbreaking criminal justice diversion program that will let community groups decide what punishment — if any — should be handed out for a select group of accused felons, reports KOMO in Seattle. The council added funding for a program known as Community Restorative Pathways. Instead of facing a judge, juveniles and adults accused of a first-time, non-violent felony offense will be offered an chance to have a community panel will decide how the accused person can be held accountable for their crime.

Suspects accused of violent crimes and crimes against persons would not be eligible for the diversion program. If the offender fails to follow through with the community group’s recommended sanction, the original criminal charges could still be pursued in court. “We can send that person instead (of jail) to a community accountability group, who will define what they think accountability means,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. It’s a new concept for the prosecutor’s office, which has 7,000 cases waiting for disposition, double the amount in a normal year. Accountability would not include jail or even a conviction, said Satterberg, who declined to define accountability. “That’s up to the community groups,” he said, adding that it would target 800 juveniles and 1,000 adults to start. “These are low-level felonies, property offenses, no domestic violence, no sexual assault cases (and) decisions you would make if you were in my shoes.” The budget for the program is $6.2 million. King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed the idea along with Satterberg. Constantine has pledged to phase out the King County Jail after the pandemic is over.

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