A new court in King County encourages non-violent offenders to seek help and rebound from their mistakes.
“We're holding people accountable, but at the same time, concurrently, allowing them to rehabilitate themselves in hopes that they will not come back into the system,” said Judge Lisa Paglisotti, who oversees the King County Community Court in Redmond.
Paglisotti knows most of the defendants by name.
“So things are still on track moving forward? Good!” she said to a man before his hearing started.
This court, which started in April, sets up in the Redmond library each Wednesday afternoon.
In exchange for agreeing to community service and restitution, offenders can avoid jail time and the hassle of checking off a list of court-ordered services spread out across the region. Instead, they come to the library, where volunteers and service providers have tables with information and resources.
“Look at it this way, if they left the courtroom and we gave them a list of places they should seek out in the city of Redmond, they're not likely to do it,” said Jane Scott, a court volunteer.
They can access addiction treatment, housing help, transportation services, and even technology classes at the library.
“Their lives are sometimes falling apart, and we're not pretending to put their lives back together, but a lot of the reason they've entered the criminal justice system is due to poverty, substance abuse, mental health issues,” Judge Paglisotti said.
Supporters say this saves money in the long-term and helps prevent people from becoming repeat offenders.
“It was a chance for me to get my charges dropped, so I jumped on it,” said Nesto Huncho, who was charged with perjury and lying to police.
Once he finishes 30 hours of community service, he'll graduate from the court.
“It helps me a lot, they give out a lot of resources that can help people in the community, they've helped me do a lot of things,” said Huncho, who just landed a job.
Judge Paglisotti said the county is looking at expanding the community court to another city, perhaps Burien.