Jim Ferrell turns youth entertainment show into political football
As voters begin to pay attention to the race for the King County prosecutor, the fate of a diversion program for first-time juvenile offenders has taken center stage in what is turning into a heated fight over the future of criminal justice reform in King County. The Seattle Police Officers Guild’s favorite candidate for our county’s chief prosecutor, Jim Ferrell, the current mayor of Federal Way, tried to distance himself from Leesa Manion by criticizing Restorative Community Pathways (RCP) , a pre-filing diversion program for young first-time offenders. The opposing candidate, Manion, who is the chief of staff for the King County prosecutor’s office, supported the program.
In Ferrell’s view, the RCP has two main problems: a lack of judicial oversight and eligibility criteria that allow young people who commit what he calls “serious crimes” to participate in the program. But people with direct experience of the program say Ferrell’s critics miss the initiative’s purpose, get simple facts about eligibility criteria wrong and would waste taxpayers’ money.
Unlike traditional diversion programs like mental health court or drug court, which typically require someone to plead guilty in exchange for a suspended sentence while they complete some sort of treatment program, the RCP diverts cases before the prosecutor makes formal charges.
This means that prosecutors and judges do not have the option of throwing someone in jail if they do not follow the diversion program, which happens, for example, when a person in drug court does not fails to show up for treatment appointments.
In a phone interview, Ferrell tried to add some nuance to his review. He emphasized that he believes in the importance of restorative justice; he just doesn’t agree with the level of power sharing with the community that the RCP program demands. But in the end, he confirmed that he simply does not believe in pre-trial diversion programs for certain crimes that are on the list of offenses eligible for diversion through the RCP.
Ferrell’s campaign website lists “fixing” the RCP as one of his “top priorities.” On his website, Ferrell’s beef with the RCP is clear: Allowing diversion before the prosecution files charges means “no case number, no judge, and no measurable liability.”
Leesa Manion told me in a phone interview that the rhetoric around “accountability” for young people in the RCP program implies a distrust of the community partners who run the programs. She refuted the idea that accountability and restorative justice should be in conflict, pointing out that Restorative Community Pathways achieves both goals.
Jimmy Hung, head of the King County District Attorney’s Office Juvenile Division, told me that the office does track people in the CPR program and that simply not having a case number underestimates the work. carried out by his office to ensure that only first-time offenders are eligible. He explained that the bureau tracks law enforcement referrals for every person in their system and weeds out youth from the RCP program after their first referral.
Summary of news:
- Jim Ferrell turns youth entertainment show into political football
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