Presiding Judge: ‘I have serious concerns' about proposal to cut probation in Seattle

A Seattle alliance has the attention of the City Council with their proposal to gut the Seattle Municipal Court’s budget for criminal probation.

The proposal comes from an alliance of organizations called Budget for Justice. They rolled out their 24-page request in front of the city council earlier this month, as people who had benefited from their organizations spoke about their experiences.

The proposal would cut $1.7 million from probation services at the beginning of 2019, and additional cuts would come in 2020 and 2021. They want the money moved to what they call "community-based interventions," including organizations focused on reducing police use of force and on youth development.

Presiding Seattle Municipal Court Judge Ed McKenna said de-funding probation, which monitors how criminals follow court-required terms, would have potentially devastating consequences to the community.

“My initial reaction? This can't be serious,” he said. “This is a serious public safety impact. And it can’t be true.”

The funding at stake supports probation services, such as ensuring DUI offenders are getting substance abuse treatment. It also supports mental health court, veterans court, and Seattle’s court resource center.

McKenna warned that if judges aren't able to use probation as a tool they'll have to use jail instead, which is not what they want.

For KIRO 7 at 7 p.m., reporter Linzi Sheldon found out more about how this could impact your safety and sat down with Councilman Mike O’Brien to ask if city leaders could be moving forward with the cuts this year.

Watch the full story below: