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Seattle Opens Community Court

Ruby de Luna
03/16/2005

The next time you’re in downtown Seattle you may notice people wearing bright orange vests picking up street litter. These are defendants who chose community service over jail time. It’s part of the city’s newly created community court to help chronic offenders who commit misdemeanors. KUOW’s Ruby de Luna has this report.

JUDGE: "Cause# 467633"

AT SEATTLE MUNCIPAL COURT 57 YEAR-OLD GREGORY PERKINS STANDS BEFORE A JUDGE. HE’S CHARGED WITH THEFT. INSTEAD OF GOING TO JAIL, PERKINS AGREES TO PERFORM 16 HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE. TOMORROW, HE’LL TRADE IN HIS RED JAIL SUIT FOR A BRIGHT ORANGE VEST. HE’LL SPEND THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS CLEANING THE STREETS DOWNTOWN.

JUDGE: "That’ll be all, sir."

WELCOME TO COMMUNITY COURT, SEATTLE’S LATEST EFFORT TO DEAL WITH NON-VIOLENT CRIMINALS ARRESTED FOR SO-CALLED QUALITY OF LIFE CRIMES…TRESPASSING, SHOPLIFTING, AND PUBLIC URINATION---MISDEMEANOR CRIMES THAT CARRY JAIL SENTENCES OF LESS THAN A YEAR. CITY ATTORNEY TOM CARR SAYS JAIL TIME MAY GET PEOPLE OFF THE STREETS, BUT IT DOESN’T SOLVE THE PROBLEMS THAT GOT THEM IN TROUBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

CARR: "Community court says rather than go to jail, we’re going to give you a number of days in community service. So you have to get up. You have to wear work clothes. You have to be on the street doing something. So those little things help people re-socialize. And perhaps just that little bit will start them on the road to changing their lives."

UNDER THE PILOT PROGRAM DEFENDANTS ARE ALSO OFFERED OPTIONS FOR GETTING BACK ON THEIR FEET, WHETHER IT’S SUBSTANCE ABUSE COUNSELING, HOUSING, OR JOB TRAINING. SEATTLE’S COMMUNITY COURT IS THE 27TH IN THE COUNTRY. IN ADDITION TO CHANGING BEHAVIOR, THE CITY HOPES TO SAVE MONEY. IT COSTS 92 DOLLARS A DAY TO JAIL CRIMINALS.

PROBATION OFFICER: "This next one here is a contract for participating in community court."

AFTER HIS COURT APPEARANCE, GREGORY PERKINS TALKS WITH A PROBATION OFFICER. PERKINS SAYS HE CHOSE COMMUNITY SERVICE BECAUSE HE’S TIRED AND TOO OLD FOR JAIL.

PERKINS: "At my age, I should be sitting back in a recliner holding the remote control and playing with my grandchildren. I’m not doing that right now. But I will."

WITH THAT PERKINS SIGNS THE PAPERWORK. HE AGREES TO MEET THE PROBATION OFFICER TOMORROW MORNING AT 6 TO START WORK. I’M RUBY DE LUNA, KUOW NEWS.

10.18.17

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