SEATTLE - Seattle Municipal Court judges on Monday agreed to a request from the Seattle City Attorney's Office to keep a list of certain repeat offenders out of Community Court.
The announcement came in response to a letter earlier this year from new City Attorney Ann Davison asking that offenders who meet her office’s "high utilization" criteria be banned from appearing in Community Court.
The program is intended as an alternative to jail for new criminal offenders. These are people who have not entered into a life of crime, and have only been accused of a few low-level misdemeanor crimes.
The court was re-established in 2020 in an agreement between the judges, the King County Department of Public Defense and then-City Attorney Pete Holmes.
Holmes did not make it through the 2021 August primary, and Davison was elected in November on a platform to hold people accountable for their crimes.
"What we are trying to do in Community Court is try to evolve away from a jail-based system," said Municipal Court Judge Damon Shadid in the 2020 promotional video.
Shadid has been overseeing Community Court since the agreement was made.
The agreement says people accused of low-level crimes like theft, trespassing, obstruction, property destruction and car prowling have the option to go to community court first.
Typically, nobody goes to trial or gets jail time in Community Court if they agree to go to treatment. If they complete treatment, they "graduate" and the charges don’t show up on the person’s record.
Davison says repeat offenders who have been accused, and in many cases convicted, of dozens of crimes should not be given that option.
"The data shows this type of intervention fails to address their activity or deter them from re-offending," Davison told FOX 13 News.
Her office previously identified 118 individuals as "high utilizers" of the criminal justice system, and 59 of them have passed through Community Court. All but one continue to offend.
The announcement went on to say:
"The Seattle Municipal Court shares the City Attorney’s goal of addressing the root causes that lead people to be frequent utilizers of the court system. The court will form a workgroup with representatives from the City Attorney’s Office, the King County Department of Public Defense, and other stakeholders to explore how best to ensure this population stays engaged in their court case while also helping connect them to services and supports to address underlying behavioral health concerns."