What is your specific approach to balancing offender diversion and rehabilitation with interests of public safety, accountability for engaging in criminal activity and justice and resolution for victims?
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Diversions are a critically important component to the criminal justice system. For a diversion program to be balanced and successful, there must be an element of accountability along with a transparent treatment plan.
Pre-filing diversions without a case number, judicial oversight, or transparent criteria and treatment plan are not effective. They do not provide justice for victims of crime or actual rehabilitation for offenders. Serious felony cases should not be eligible for this type of program.
An important component of public safety is addressing both crime and root causes. Individuals often continue to commit crimes, even after being caught and prosecuted, because the root causes of their behavior are not addressed. A thoughtful – and effective – criminal justice system can charge felony crimes, support victims, and help people stop cycles of criminal behavior. This is a narrative we risk losing as our political discourse becomes more polarized and divided.
For example, last Spring, under my leadership, the PAO charged a man for committing 28 thefts of alcohol from a downtown Seattle store over the course of several weeks. To break the cycle of arrest and release for the nonviolent misdemeanor crimes of shoplifting typically handled by the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the PAO combined the total loss amount of all 28 thefts and charged this as a felony case in Drug Court, a minimum 10-month program that provides support to break the cycle of addiction that often leads to criminal behavior. Drug Court offers dedicated treatment, case management, and housing. If he completes the program, the felony case is resolved; if not, he faces traditional prosecution.
In this case, the most important thing from a public safety perspective was to remove this individual from a cycle of harm – to the store owner and employees, downtown residents and visitors, and himself.
Under my leadership, the PAO will continue to review each case individually, taking into careful consideration the evidence, the individual’s history, and the variety of accountability options, whether that’s traditional prosecution, therapeutic courts, or the responsible diversion of nonviolent offenses.
Workers, customers, and King County residents expect accountability. Accountability that addresses crime and root causes is achievable in this type of thoughtful and effective approach to public safety.