Seattle, King Co. leaders release four-point plan to address repeat, violent offenders

SEATTLE -- The working group created by Seattle and King County leaders in response to the widespread problem of repeat, violent offenders has released a four-point plan to address what they're calling "high barrier individuals."

Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and City Attorney Pete Holmes made the announcement Thursday.

The pilots include: a comprehensive place-based treatment center at the “West Wing” of the King County Jail; a “rapid re-entry connector” program to plan for the release of people from jail; “HB probation” to provide better support and accountability; and “case conferencing” by law enforcement and services staff to develop a coordinated plan for the most high-impact offenders.

The pilot programs will start late this year and early next year and come after months of reporting on violent, repeat offenders and the impact they're having on downtown businesses and across King County.

Here's a breakdown of the four programs, as provided by the city of Seattle (Q13 News reporter Steve Kiggins will have a full report tonight.)

Summary of Pilot Program 1: : Enhanced Shelter with On Demand Behavioral Health Services

Under this pilot program jointly funded by the city and King County, the county will create a 60 bed, 24/7 enhanced shelter that will provide on demand behavioral health, supportive housing, and case management services on the second floor of the King County Correctional Facility west wing. Services will be focused on people whose combination of long-term homelessness, unmet behavioral health needs, and lack of consistent connection to services and community brings them into frequent, expensive, and unsuccessful contact with the criminal legal and emergency medical systems.

A total of $4 million will be allocated for capital and additional $800,000 for program operations.  The city and county will share these costs evenly. Durkan’s proposed budget for 2020 includes $2.0 million for capital and $400,000 for operating costs.

Following investments in the facility, services are expected to begin by mid-2020.

Pilot Program 2: Rapid Re-Entry Connector

Currently, King County Jail Health Services provides limited reentry/release planning services to certain people who are in the King County Jail for more than 72 hours. Release planning staff assess behavioral health, physical health, housing, and other supportive service needs and connect people to appropriate services in the community upon release from custody. Yet most people booked into jail are released within 12-48 hours and cannot benefit from release planning. This pilot would begin to address the lack of release planning services available for those who rapidly exit the facility. The program would embed a reentry planner position within Jail Health Services who would triage people for services from an array of relevant programs such as LEAD, West Wing Enhanced Shelter, as well as community-based treatment, services, and housing.

The city is also providing additional funding to increase capacity for in-jail substance use disorder assessments. The assessments help determine appropriate level of care and treatment referrals.

Durkan’s proposed 2020 budget adds $212,500 for the pilot program. The program is expected to begin in early 2020.

Pilot Program 3: HB Probation

The HB probation pilot program would feature a smaller, specialized caseload for Seattle Municipal Court probation counselors who have training in harm-reduction and trauma-informed care strategies for a group of high barrier clients.

The counselor will be able to introduce graduated sanctions, offer small incentives for positive behavior, meet with people off-site (away from the courthouse) and schedule more frequent review hearings with judges. Balance suspended jail sentences may be offered to provide people the opportunity to have their jail sentence shortened if the client is willing to engage in chemical dependency treatment. The probation counselor’s expertise in working with high-needs clients will involve case coordination with other service providers including treatment providers, diversion personnel, Veteran’s Affairs, and others.

Mayor Durkan’s 2020 Proposed Budget adds $170,000 for this pilot program. This new funding would be paired with up to $120,000 of additional Municipal Court resources. If approved by City Council, the program could begin as soon as late 2019.

Pilot Program 4: Case Conferencing & Support by Seattle’s City Attorney’s Office

A case conferencing approach with support by the Seattle City Attorney’s Office will be responsible for coordination across systems and programs, addressing those high barrier offenders involved in diversion programs, court programs or post-sentencing probation, and working both at a macro level to assess whether existing and proposed pilot programs are working and on individual cases – working to make a meaningful, holistic positive changes in the lives of the people who populate the list and the communities impacted by their behaviors.

Durkan’s 2020 Budget adds $150,000 for an additional Assistant City Attorney position in the Criminal Division to ensure the ability to provide better outcomes and efficient case management.

The program is expected to begin in early 2020.