The City of Shoreline gets a community court

Friday, December 13, 2019

Community Court will be held at Shoreline City Hall
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

By Jamie Holter

On January 7, 2020, the City of Shoreline, in partnership with King County District Court and a long list of community partners, will open the doors on a new type of court for those who have committed low-level crimes, such as misdemeanor theft, drug offense, and property crimes.

Community court is an innovative approach that holds people accountable for what they’ve done AND addresses the underlying issues that contributed to their crime, issues like substance use, homelessness, and mental or behavioral health issues.

Research and recidivism statistics show that low-level offenders who get the help they need are less likely to reoffend.

It works like this: the person is arrested and identified by the Shoreline Prosecutor. The city defense attorney and other parties, including the King County District Court judge and the arresting officer, have the option of referring the suspect to community court.

If the person agrees, they receive a needs assessment and then go before a judge. The judge, with prosecutors and defense attorneys, decides what specific support the defendant needs and what classes he/she must take. The person is also required to complete community service.

If the program participant completes the required work, like attend substance use therapy for a designated time or gets specific medical treatment, charges are dismissed.

“These people are in our community before and after they are taken into custody,’ said Callista Welbaum, Therapeutic Courts Manager for King County. 
“They can either go to jail, get no help and be released back into our community OR they can get the help, succeed, and then be released back into the community.”

Data shows the entire community is better off if they get help because they are less likely to reoffend.

Community court will be open on Tuesdays from 1:30-3:30pm at City Hall.

“Sometimes the criminal justice system can seem like a revolving door,” said Shoreline Mayor Will Hall. “A handful of people getting arrested, going to court, going to jail, getting out, and getting arrested again. Once the cycle begins, it can be hard to break.
“For non-violent offenders with mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and extreme poverty, the system doesn’t work because it doesn’t address the root causes of the criminal behavior. If we can intervene and provide the right assistance at the right time, we can break the cycle and make our community safer.”

Here is the best part. It’s not JUST for court participants. Support is available to all community members at a Shoreline Community Resource Center that will operate in conjunction with community court.

Each week, at Shoreline City Hall, community partners will set up shop to help all comers. Here is a short list of services that will be available at this location.
  • DSHS programs
  • Job readiness, job searches, resumes, and temporary work
  • Mental health and substance use disorder help and support
  • Dispute resolution and civil legal matters
  • Going back to school: GED, HS, or college
  • Reduced fare bus passes (at Hopelink, across the street from city hall)
  • Emergency food and food bank info
  • Housing assistance and shelter referrals
  • Info about free cell phone services
  • Library cards and services

Not every service will be available every Tuesday. Once the schedule is set, the city will post it on the website and at the Resource Center.

The City of Shoreline will be the third community court to come online. The Community Court in Burien opened in February 2019. The Redmond court opened in April 2018. Both have managed hundreds of cases and provided thousands of service hours.


Anonymous,  December 13, 2019 at 12:01 PM  

The de-jailing lobby comes to Shoreline! Let's adopt more of Seattle's failed policies. Maybe we, too, can spend half-a-million dollars on outdoor courthouse security. Shoreline City council, in their infinite wisdom, have basically incentivized "doing crime" in Shoreline. Maybe that's the plan to drive everyone out of their homes so they can build more tax-free apartments.

Anonymous,  December 13, 2019 at 4:50 PM  

Just wondering if the victims have any say in this process?

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