CRIMINAL JUSTICE:

We need to focus more on preparing our children for success and less on locking people up for non-violent crimes.

RESERVING JAILS AND PRISONS FOR VIOLENT CRIMINALS

Jail is too expensive and there are better approaches to reduce crime and save taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. Yes, some people have to be locked up, but the United States imprisons more people per capita than any other developed nation.[1] There are obvious racial imbalances as well. Over 1 in 40 African American people in Washington are in jail or prison, six times the rate for Caucasian Washingtonians.[2] This is very expensive, ineffective and inhumane. We will be better off spending hard earned taxpayer money on improving schools, closing the class and race-based achievement gap in education and preventing crime through providing healthy child supports.

As a public defense attorney for ten years I have represented many people who are in jail or a variety of minor crimes. While a handful of those people are truly dangerous, mostly they are people who have experienced significant trauma, have a mental illness, or have other issues that could become worse by going to jail.

INVESTING IN DRUG TREATMENT

A huge portion of crimes are committed so the offender can get money for drugs or alcohol. Access to drug and alcohol treatment significantly reduces criminal behavior. One study showed that taxpayers saved $2-$2.50 for every $1 spent on treatment, largely because of avoided jail costs.[3] Long term studies show those who participate in drug abuse treatment programs commit fewer crimes than those who don’t.[4]

EXPANDING SPECIALTY COURTS

We should expand use of specialized courts focusing on mental health, veterans' needs, drug addiction, and family reconciliation.

As an attorney, I defended veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were suffering from traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and addiction. Veteran's courts connect offending veterans to peer mentors while holding them accountable through probation monitoring.

I have also represented hundreds of clients diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Our system does a very poor job of treating mentally ill people who commit crimes. Rather than treating the underlying illness, we often incarcerate them. This is inhumane and cost ineffective. Mental health courts offer an option for closely supervised probation and mandated mental health treatment rather than jail time for mentally ill people accused of low-level crimes. This is not only more humane, it also saves taxpayer dollars. Studies also show that mental health court participants do not pose a higher risk to public safety when they are diverted from traditional courts.[5]

REQUIRING POLICE DE-ESCALATION AND RACIAL BIAS TRAINING

Our police officers risk their lives every day to keep us safe and the vast majority deserve our respect and honor. But too often we see shootings of unarmed civilians, disproportionality people of color. We need all of our communities to feel like police are here to protect us.

I want to expand Shoreline's innovative RADAR program –– Risk Assessment, Deterrence, and Referral. Under RADAR, officers get to know mentally ill community members with a history of police interactions and their families so they are prepared to de-escalate situations when responding to future 911 calls. I also support expansion of Listen and Explain with Equity and Dignity (LEED) training for officers, which is used in Shoreline and should be expanded statewide.

We should find better ways to hold officers accountable for unnecessary shootings. Right now the legal standard of "malicious intent to kill" makes it hard to prosecute even the most egregious of killings by police. We need to modify this standard in a way that protects civilians as well as innocent police officers.

INVESTING IN OUR CHILDREN

I am proud to serve as a member of King County’s Children and Youth Advisory Board which oversees Best Starts for Kids funding. This fund pays for programs that use the latest research to address the factors that lead too many children down paths of academic failure, jail, and cycles of poverty. Long-term research has shown that early investments in childrens' wellbeing saves an incredible amount of money by preventing future jail costs and increasing productivity and wages.[6] This is one of the most humane, nurturing, and cost effective investments governments can make.