Alternatives to Secure Detention

Last month, the first meeting of the King County Council’s Special Committee on Alternatives to Incarceration was held with Councilmembers Claudia Balducci, Reagan Dunn, Larry Gossett, and myself. The purpose of this new committee is to establish and review recommendations to improve the County’s alternatives to incarceration programs, including electronic home detention and work education release. The Committee will meet every month or two for the remainder of 2017.

Agendas and meeting details for this committee are located here: http://www.kingcounty.gov/council/committees/special_cmt_alternatives_incarceration.aspx

At the meeting we received a briefing on the status of the County’s current programs, including the following.

Alternatives to Secure Detention Programs

In 2002, the King County Council adopted the Adult Justice Operational Master Plan (AJOMP), which established policies for the use of secure detention, alternatives to jail, and overall system efficiency. At that time King County was only the 8th county in the nation to adopt such policies, according to the National Institute of Jails. However, these practices are becoming more common due to cost reduction and offender recidivism outcomes.

Through AJOMP, King County also established a policy that requires the use of integrated and coordinated treatment for offenders whose criminal activity is related to substance abuse or mental health issues. The County acknowledged that this policy would help to reduce costs, jail utilization for these groups, and future criminality, thus improving public safety. By adopting these policies the county has sought to make the best use of its limited detention resources while preserving public safety.

The County also created a Community Corrections Division within the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention as a result of AJOMP to allow the courts to use alternatives to secure detention. An individual in a community corrections program is always referred through a judicial decision.

The division has been able to grow and add a variety of alternative to secure detention programs, some of them listed below:

Community Center for Alternative Programs (CCAP) allows eligible offenders who are required to report daily to the CCAP facility for structured programming throughout the day. CCAP provides on-site services as well as referrals to community-based services. Offenders participating in CCAP receive an individual needs assessment and are scheduled for a variety of programs. As of May 11, 2017 there were 180 individuals enrolled in CCAP.

Community Work Program (CWP) allows low-level, low-risk offenders to participate in work crews to perform supervised manual labor for various public service agencies. As of April 2017, the average daily enrollment for the program is 244, with about 16 participants per day.

Electronic Home Detention (EHD) allows eligible offenders to serve all or some portion of their pre-trial and/or sentenced time at home. Offenders are monitored electronically and are confined to their homes, except when following a set schedule that may include attendance at work, school or treatment. As of May 11, there were 30 persons on EHD.

Work/Education Release (WER) is an alcohol and drug free residential alternative for offenders who are employed or are in one of the County’s special treatment courts. The program operates primarily with 79 beds on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse and 28 shared beds with the state Department of Corrections. As of May 11, 2017 there 83 persons in WER beds.

Helping Hands Program assists persons convicted in the King County Superior Court to find a site to complete their community service hours and monitors compliance for the court.  On May 11, 2017, there were 143 individuals enrolled in this program.

Intake Services Unit provides information to the court to expedite the release of appropriate defendants awaiting adjudication or to ensure that offenders are not incarcerated when other appropriate alternatives are available.

All of these programs have been designed to provide an alternative to jail for low-level, low-risk offenders. Offenders are held accountable while given the opportunity to pay their fines and regain their driver’s license while completing the terms of their sentence. I wholeheartedly believe redirecting resources to community-based and restorative alternatives to jail and prison will be the best way to reduce incarceration rates while preserving public safety. As highlighted above, this not only contributes to reducing incarceration rates and reducing cost, but it allows us to preserve public safety and gives a second chance to those who can benefit from it the most.