Giving time instead of doing time, offenders save the city $65,000
Nov 04, 2010
A 90-foot mural painted by Seattle Community Court defendants on a cement wall beside the Lake City Community Center was dedicated last Friday (Oct. 15). Now a gray expanse that had been a frequent target of graffiti has become a bright, stylized depiction of salmon rollicking in a stream past familiar Seattle city landmarks, cedar trees, and a winsome bear.
The mural is a colorful symbol of a judicial process that works so well in Seattle it has set a standard for other cities. Community Court responds to chronic low-level nonviolent offenders by leading them to reconnect with the community in a positive way....
Essential to this kind of restorative justice are active partnerships between the court and the community. Chuck Dickey, unofficial mayor of Lake City, has been leading a sustained collaboration that began almost two years ago. At first, Dickey said at the mural dedication ceremony, he resisted the idea of “bringing criminals to Lake City when we want criminals out of Lake City,” but now he’s a convert. Crews of workers from Community Court have cleaned neighborhood streets, picked up litter, and pulled invasive plants from the banks of Thornton Creek. “These crews have painted over 3,950 square feet of graffiti,” said Dickey. “We couldn’t do it without them. I enjoy working with them, or I wouldn’t do it.”
Defendants opt into the Community Court program voluntarily. Work crews have been spending the first and third Thursdays of each month in Lake City until their required community service time is completed, under the supervision of AmeriCorps volunteers and program coordinator Stephanie Tschida (who also designed the salmon mural). Participants are required to draw on designated social services that will help them solve such problems as addiction, homelessness, and unemployment, which may have tipped them toward breaking the law in the first place.