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County Council approves eligibility criteria for detention alternative for criminal defendants awaiting trial

Summary

New rules preclude criminal defendants with prior conviction and current charge of violent, sex, or domestic violence felony from day reporting

Story

Today, the Metropolitan King County Council approved eligibility criteria for one of the County’s pre-trial release programs, making convicted violent, sex, and domestic violence felons ineligible for telephone reporting while awaiting trial for a similar serious offense. The adopted legislation is a step towards bringing the county’s pre-trial release programs in line with other King County alternative criminal justice programs, which all establish clear guidelines and take reasonable precautions to ensure the use of the programs by low-risk individuals.

“Today’s reform moves the ball forward on an important public safety issue,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, sponsor of the ordinance and Chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “By establishing common-sense guidelines to determine who is eligible to be released through this program, the Council is taking a step toward setting responsible policies for how these discretionary programs should be used.”

“This legislation will enhance public safety by reducing the liability of dangerous individuals reentering our communities while they await trial,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer.

Through its Community Corrections Division, King County operates several alternative-to-detention programs, including electronic home detention, work-education release, and two day-reporting programs – “CCAP Basic” and “CCAP Enhanced”. Under the adopted legislation, individuals charged with a violent, sex, or domestic violence felony – who have been previously convicted of such a felony– are ineligible to participate in CCAP Basic, a day-reporting program in which participants report by telephone.

As originally proposed by Ferguson, the legislation would have instituted the eligibility criteria for all pretrial alternative programs. However, the legislation was amended by a 5-4 vote to apply only to CCAP Basic.

Participants in a community corrections detention alternative must be ordered to the program by the court. Post-sentencing use of the programs is governed by state law, which prohibits use by individuals convicted of violent, sex, and other serious felonies. However, up until today’s action by the Council, there were no eligibility conditions for pretrial criminal defendants.

King County also offers numerous alternative programs and therapeutic courts, including a drug court, mental health court, and family treatment court. These programs all include eligibility criteria, prohibiting use by individuals convicted and/or charged with a violent, sex, or other serious felony.

Under the legislation, the limitations on the pre-trial release programs will remain in effect until the County implements a validated pretrial risk assessment tool, which will provide more precise information on which types of defendants are considered a public safety risk during the pretrial period. Last year, Ferguson sponsored legislation requiring the development of the risk assessment tool and mandating better reporting and accountability in the use of these programs. The risk assessment tool is estimated to be completed in 2014.


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