Redmond has a new diversion court that will help low-level offenders reconnect with their community. As an alternative to jail time, the new Community Court program seeks to connect participants with resources to address the underlying reasons for their involvement with the justice system.
The city's first Community Court program is piloted by King County District Court, which has partnered with the Redmond Library. The lawyers at Stein, Lotzkar & Starr, P.S. have been involved in the process and are present every week to represent participants. Every Wednesday from 1:30-3:30 p.m., court will be held in a library meeting room located next door to the Community Resource Center.
The purpose of a community court is to identify and address the underlying challenges of court participants that might lead to criminal activity. The City of Redmond's website says the court's mission is to “reduce crime, by providing services and increasing community engagement and connection.”
People who participate in community court are referred to services in the resource center, such as assessment and support for substance abuse and mental health issues, housing and employment assistance, GED programs, and civil legal aid. According to King County District Court Presiding Judge Donna Tucker, “Our real hope is that we can individualize for the defendants what their real needs are by doing the assessments first.”
Judge Tucker witnessed other community courts in action and began to lobby the King County Council for funding to study the concept. She also helped secure a grant from the Center for Court Innovation for technical support with the new community court. Tucker says the court aims to serve people who are “high needs, low risk.” Participants can be referred to community court police officers, prosecutors, or defense attorneys.
Judge Tucker says “some people get to court and we never see them again,” while “others are what the county calls ‘familiar faces.'” The goal of the court is to “find that population and ask them to do things that will help them.”
Community courts use a combination of punishment and help. Offenders are required to pay back the public by doing community service and participating in individualized social service sanctions, like drug treatment or mental health counseling. Entry in the program is completely voluntary. Participants will have their case dismissed if they meet all of the requirements set by the community court.
Redmond's Community Resource Center is available to the general public, as well as community court participants. Because many people who have had frequent contact with courts develop a negative association with the courthouse, the program is being housed at the library.
At Stein, Lotzkar & Starr, P.S., our attorneys are proud to be involved with Redmond's first community court. Our goal is to help build stronger and safer neighborhoods in our communities. People who have been charged with misdemeanor offenses and have not had violent felony charges in the last five years, or any prior sex offense charges, may be eligible for community court.
If you have more questions about Redmond's new community court, contact our Bellevue criminal defense lawyers to set up a free consultation with our legal team.