3Prosecutors Should Divert More Cases
Prosecutorial discretion is a powerful
tool for criminal justice reform. While
society’s most complex issues come
to our doorstep, not all of them can
be solved in a courtroom or a jail cell.
Prosecutors and human service providers can work together to find alternatives that are more effective and
achieve more efficient outcomes than
results that accompany a conviction.
Four years ago, we started the 180°
Program to complement traditional
juvenile court diversion. More than
1,500 youth have taken advantage of
this program, held monthly at Seattle
University School of Law. The diversion workshop features powerful messages from the community, empowers
youth to make better decisions, and
helps them avoid a criminal record.
The LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program, which offers life-saving services to a population that is mostly homeless, mentally
ill, and struggling with addiction, is a
national model of diversion that saves
lives and taxpayers’ dollars.
We have also effectively decrimi-nalized Driving While License Suspended, removing more than 3,000
cases annually from District Court,
and eliminating the possibility of jail
and arrest warrants for people who
fail to pay speeding tickets.
More diversion programs are in
place or in planning in King County.
We are exploring community solutions to truancy, juvenile domestic
violence, youth marijuana possession, and other, more complex, problems. Prosecutors, working in partnership with the community, can use
the power of the law to help find solutions without the need for criminal
4 Statewide Reentry Investment
Washington not only has an over-in-carceration problem, but also a recidivism problem. Half of the people sent to
prison last year had been there before,
and 30% of those released this year will
be back within three years. Many more
will be re-arrested and serve time in local jails, or return to prison four or five
years after release.
Reentry for most inmates leaving
prison today consists of just $40, a bus
ticket back to the county of conviction, and a brand new official ID that
says “Department of Corrections.” We
should not be surprised that people
released from prison who are unable
to find housing, a job, or any hope will
return to the places and people that got
them into trouble at the outset.
A system of reentry support must
be built, funded, and operated in partnership with human services groups
already doing this work. Reentry is a
great untapped field that, if done right,
will help people in transition succeed,
reduce recidivism, and increase public
5 Collateral Consequences
A felony conviction can prohibit a
person from applying for more than
90 professional licenses in our state.
Legislation was introduced last year
to create a Certificate for Restoration
of Opportunity (CROP) that would allow people who have paid their debt to
society to apply for licenses that lead
to living wage jobs. This needs to pass
6 Eliminate the Impact of Prior Drug Convictions
We now recognize that our past urban
drug enforcement decisions were too
focused on open-air drug markets, low-level dealers and users, and arrests
and convictions that unfairly impacted
communities of color.
We have made tremendous progress developing multiple approaches
to drug crimes, recognizing that drug
treatment is the optimum result for
To close the chapter on the “War on
Drugs” in Washington, we should consider changing criminal history scoring rules so that past drug convictions
of low-level offenders wash-out more
quickly, or not count at all. This way, we
stop perpetuating the legacy of what
history will reflect as the unfair application of our drug laws.
7 Three Strikes Law Reform
In 1993, Washington passed one of the
first three strikes laws mandating life
THE CRIMINAL LAW SECTION
seeks the participation of the Bar,
including prosecutors and defense
counsel, by providing a forum for
the exchange of ideas in the areas
of criminal law, correction, procedure, and evidence. The Section
works with pending legislation
and development of statutory
enactments to improve and facilitate the administration of justice
within the criminal arena. With
an equal number of defense and
prosecuting attorney positions,
the executive board champions
the rights of both the accused and
victims in the criminal justice system. Activities include publishing
a newsletter, as well as assisting
with the Criminal Law Institute.
To join the Section list serve and
for general questions, please
send your email address and Bar
number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information and to get
involved with the Section, see
The Washington State Bar
Association and its
Criminal Law Section present:
Criminal Justice Institute
Thursday and Friday
October 22 and 23, 2015
19010 First Avenue South
The comprehensive conference that
brings together prosecutors and
defense counsel, law professors and
law enforcement, forensics experts
and the judiciary to share insights,
expertise, and best practices across
the criminal justice system.
Enter 16816BUR in the Search box.
*Located 13. 6 miles from downtown
Seattle with ample free parking.