Educate, not incarcerate
South King County still hasn’t recovered financially from the shut-down. While families struggle to place the broken pieces of their shattered lives together, on December 15, 2021, the mayors of Auburn, Federal Way, Kent and Renton met with the King County Executive, prosecutor and staff seeking to redirect funding away from restorative justice models into more incarceration.
This group of Mayors that includes our very own Mayor Jim Ferrell is working to dismantle a diversion program that started November 23, 2021. Restorative Community Pathways (RCP) is an alternative sentencing program offered through the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office where participants are required to engage in community based services and supports. Programs like RCP hold youth accountable, followed by the opportunity to learn from the impact of their choices, and develop healthy life skills.
Financially, taxpayers cannot afford the burdening costs of prison. According to the Vera Institute of Justice in fiscal year 2021, King County budgeted $208.6 million to detain people held by the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention. The Vera report explains that a dollar saved on the jail is a dollar that can be spent on the countless services and programs that communities rely on. These savings could be redirected toward other types of investments that better promote community safety, including alternatives to incarceration, affordable housing, and treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders.
“I can think of 208.6 million different ways we could invest that money back into our community,” says Cynthia Ricks-Maccotan with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. “208.6 million different ways to increase job readiness; 208.6 million innovative ways to increase on-time high school graduation for our students. Federal Way has over 15 local non-profits that are deeply invested in helping our youth in crisis, why not give the people in our community a chance to be a part of the solution.”
“Tough on crime tactics alone do not work,” explains Saudia J. Abdullah, a local law enforcement professional and former King County Council candidate. “We have to look at history, look at mass incarceration and ask ourselves: did it work? If being tough on crime wasn’t the panacea solution that we had hoped it to be, then we must be bold enough to try something different.”
The crippling effects of mass incarceration has brought elected leaders throughout the country to the table in search of better, financially feasible options. “As elected leaders, we must listen to those impacted by our policies” explains Jamila Taylor, Washington State Representative. Our duty is to listen to all sides— the victims and the accused, the parents and the school administrators. Listen and lead. RCP is the reflection of that process. Leaders listened and worked in partnership to find community-based solutions,” says Taylor.
Residents throughout South King County need solutions that work. Communities are looking for common sense investments to help youth become contributing members of the economy, and to not default to knee-jerk reactions rooted in fear-mongering tactics.