King County’s secretive youth crime program lets potential school shooters off the hook
August 31, 2022
An effective criminal justice system balances the goal of keeping crime down with protecting victims and reducing the likelihood a criminal once released will violate the law again. A lot of factors come into play, but for the system to be effective it must acknowledge reality and human nature. It also must transparent and accountable to the public whose tax dollars is used to fund it.
In that regard, King County’s Restorative Community Pathways (RCP) fails epically, in ways we will be exploring in a two-part series this week.
On paper, it is a program intended to keep juveniles with first-time offenses out of jail by giving them social services on the presumption that it will prevent them from reoffending.
But in reality, the RCP does the following:
- Creates an unaccountable “lunatics running the asylum” program
- Does not track any meaningful metrics
- Offers a “get out of a jail free” card for potential school shooters whose “rehabilitation” could just involve participating in a Zoom meeting from their own bedroom.
- Removes the judiciary entirely and creates a shadowy criminal justice system headed by the county executive and run in secret by private entities.
If this sounds unnecessarily provocative, inflammatory, or melodramatic, just keep reading and then decide for yourself.
The RCP has gained attention recently after several King County mayors called for it to be paused until some important changes could be made. The King County Council unanimously voted to keep it going after Councilmember Reagan Dunn introduced a motion to put it on hiatus.
The RCP is also a sticking point between the two candidates in the King Prosecutor’s race, Jim Ferrell and Leesa Manion. Ferrell believes it’s in need of reform, while Manion wants to maintain the status quo.
What’s significant about the RCP is that the county intends to roll out an adult version of this program in October.
Make Your Voice Heard!
Contact King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and tell him to halt the adult version of the Restorative Community Pathways program until reforms to the juvenile program are made.
The RCP started in November 2021 following a vote for its creation in March of that year. From the way it’s spoken of by some proponents, it’s a program designed to keep juveniles out of the prison by adopting a rehabilitation approach that gives them the support they need to avoid reoffending in the future.
But when you strip away the rhetorical varnish the entire program is based on a fringe, radical ideology that has nothing to do with public safety or crime reduction. According to county documents, the RCP workgroups defined four objectives of the process that include:
- Divest funds and services from the current juvenile legal system, that is racially disproportionate and often harmful.
- Invest in a community-driven support system that leads with racial equity and care for the referred youth, their families, the community members who have experienced harm, and the community.
- Create processes of care and support centered in youth agency.
- Dismantle the culture of white supremacy, settler-colonialism, and all forms of oppression.
Notice what is not among the objectives: reduce the rate of juveniles repeat offenders and reduce overall juvenile crime. It also isn’t intended to protect other juveniles.
In other words, the RCP could actually lead to increased juvenile crime and more repeat offenses, and it could still be accomplishing its stated goals, none of which concern overall public safety.
But we wouldn’t know that, because the county doesn’t track any meaningful data.
Moreover, the courts have no oversight over the RCP. Once the case is handed over, there’s no follow-up within the legal system. That means the judiciary has no involvement or ability to examine a case. The entire purpose of that branch in the criminal justice system is to determine whether offenders should be kept in jail and for how long. Although they don’t always perform that role well, they are still accountable to the public. Court records are accessible to the public.
In contrast, the private entities that will manage the actually rehabilitation can operate in total secrecy. And if something goes amiss, there’s no way for the public to obtain any documents from these groups.
The county could claim the program’s a success because there’s fewer juvenile convictions, but the county has already said its goal is to shift roughly 40 percent of juvenile cases away from prosecution. This may be confusing apparently for some in the criminal justice system, but the lack of prosecution and conviction doesn’t imply a lack of crime.
The county plans to stop prosecuting, period. The question is whether crime itself will go down at the same rate.
Stay tuned for more on the RCP later this week…