King County Prosecutor finding ways to keep kids out of prison

by: Amy Clancy Updated:

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Early Tuesday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg tweeted that his office has been "quietly refining our approach to justice” and that he'd be telling the King County Council how he's doing that at a meeting Tuesday afternoon. 

Satterberg told Law and Justice Committee members Kathy Lambert, Rod Dembowski, Larry Gossett and Joe McDermott that King County is the only place in the country using the law for intervention, rather than just punishment.

As an example, Satterberg touted the success of the 180 Program, designed to keep juvenile truants out of jail and in the classroom. According to Satterberg, there were 1,400 petitions filed against young people in King County for truancy and school-related infractions in 2013. All were referred to the 180 Program, which has been in existence since January 2012

Of the original 1,400, only 100 ended up in juvenile court. According to Satterberg, keeping kids out of jail is just one way King County prevents crime.

“Statistics show that a person who drops out of high school is five times more likely to go to prison than the person who obtains a high school diploma,” he said.

Another program Satterberg said is unique to King County is the Crisis Solutions Center just off Rainier Avenue South. For the past year and a half, Seattle police officers have had the option to take mentally ill misdemeanor lawbreakers to the Crisis Solutions Center to get emergency housing and services instead of booking them into jail.

A similar program, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, does the same for those who commit low-level drug and prostitution crimes. Suspected offenders can be taken immediately to treatment instead of jail.

Satterberg admits these and other recent King County programs show his office is happy to use the threat of prosecution as a bargaining chip.

“The law is a great leverage point and we can say, ‘If you go to this program and you participate in this treatment program, we won’t file this criminal charge’” Satterberg told KIRO 7 reporter Amy Clancy. “That’s enough for a lot of people to follow through on what can be a difficult path.”

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