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Seattle city attorney asks to exclude frequent offenders from Community Court

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison said Community Court is "fail[ing] to address" the behavior of some frequent offenders.

SEATTLE — Seattle City Attorney Ann Davidson sent a request to the Seattle Municipal Court asking that frequent offenders who meet the criteria for Davison's High Utilizer Initiative be excluded from Community Court. 

Davison's High Utilizer Initiative identified 118 individuals who are responsible for 2,400 criminal cases over the past five years in Seattle, according to a release from her office. Each person identified has 12 or more referrals from the Seattle Police Department to the City Attorney's Office within the past five years, and at least one referral in the past eight months. 

Criminal justice reform advocates have praised King County's community court system, which connects low-level misdemeanor offenders with housing assistance or drug treatment instead of jail time.

However, Davison said the system isn't working for some candidates.

"We've seen about 59 individuals with tens and tens of police referrals that had been going previously through community court, and the rate of reoffending is high," Davison said. 

Her office points to cases where offenders have repeatedly been arrested and charged with theft or assault, and have cycled through the "release first" aspect of community court multiple times. 

"This data shows this type of intervention fails to address their activity or to deter them from reoffending," Davison said. 

Now Davison is seeking to end a 2019 agreement with the courts regarding Community Court and "clarify how many chances" a repeat offender can have in the system. 

Davison is also seeking to classically prosecute "repeat, high-impact criminal activity." She said she made the formal request to the court after negotiations to change the system for frequent offenders went nowhere.

Municipal court judges responded to Davison's request, saying they are still evaluating the proposal. A spokesperson said the court remains "committed to collaborating with the Seattle City's Attorney Office and the King County Department of Public Defense to ensure a viable Seattle Community Court Program."

The statement went on to say the court will continue working with Davison's office and the Department of Public Defense to "identify how to move forward together and create a prioritized plan for people whose needs and issues are not being addressed and have not been addressed historically, by our criminal justice system."

    

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