LOCAL NEWS

One Seattle judge, drug crimes, and a limited system

Apr 23, 2019, 4:19 PM | Updated: Apr 24, 2019, 11:43 am
Atticus Effect, judge, seattle, justice...
(AP)
(AP)

Municipal Judge Ed McKenna has spent 10 years on the bench in Seattle. Just this past week he encountered a case that has become common in the city.

“I had a defendant who had been charged with two counts of theft, two different cases, one from Macy’s, the other from Target downtown Seattle,” he said. “The person had a serious history of drug offenses and thefts on their history. So it was apparent to everyone this person had a drug problem. When they were apprehended in one of those cases, they had two grams of heroin in their pocket and admitted to stealing to support their habit.”

RELATED: Almost 1/2 prolific offenders return to jail
RELATED: Study on Seattle’s prolific offenders
RELATED: What King County judges need for prolific offenders

“The recommendation from the prosecutor was to plead to one of those cases, dismiss the other,” McKenna said. “And impose eight days in jail — which the person already served — and close the case. ‘Close the case’ means there are no services.”

McKenna told this story at a forum hosted by the Downtown Seattle Association, moderated by KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. The forum was focused on the city’s criminal justice system and perceived failures regarding “prolific offenders” — people who move in and out of the justice system while continuing to commit crimes.

The person who appeared before McKenna last week could be considered as one such prolific offender. It was just one case, but one that appears in front of him often, with many different defendants. They have similar stories — drug addictions leading to low-level crimes. Yet, there are few options currently available to the justice system to truly remedy the problem.

“I said ‘Isn’t this this exactly the type of offense the community is complaining about? What incentive does the defendant have to not re-enter the store and what services are we going to impose on this defendant to make sure they get the treatment they need so they don’t re-offend and be back here next week?’” he said.

Judge McKenna did not follow the prosecutor’s recommendation. He imposed treatment on the defendant. But the story is likely not going to end there. Solutions to the issue aren’t so simple.

As McKenna sees it, from his place on the bench, there is no significant effort — or an established system — in the courts to get people treatment and other services they need, which are related to the causes of crime.

“The problem is we don’t have an inpatient treatment facility that I can immediately order that person into,” he said. “The only available inpatient treatment is 30 days out. So then it becomes an issue of ‘Can I ethically hold that person in custody while I wait for a bed to become available? Or do I release them on the street?’ Knowing that they are going to go right back out, steal from a store, put the needle in their arm, and be right back in my court. Some people feel it’s simply not fair to incarcerate a person because of their addiction.”

King County has a drug court. Seattle does not. The Seattle court does not prosecute drug offenses, rather it deals with offenses related to drugs — such as the theft case in front of Judge McKenna. He says that if it becomes apparent that drugs are related, he cannot forward the defendant to the county. He also says that he cannot force someone into treatment — there is no option for an in-custody, inpatient treatment facility available to the courts.

As a side note, McKenna says there are 400 beds in the west wing of the Seattle jail that are currently vacant. They are now being turned into a homeless shelter. He believes a better use would have been for an in-custody, inpatient facility. But it takes two, he argues. It would take a judge to order it, and a prosecutor to recommend and support it. McKenna says he cannot speak for the prosecutors.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Local News

Demonstrators march through downtown following a rally in support of abortion rights on May 3, 2022...
MyNorthwest Staff

Thousands protest throughout Seattle over abortion rights

Protestors congregated at the downtown Federal Building at Marion Street and Second Avenue, led by the Democratic Socialists of America.
2 days ago
(KIRO 7)...
Jordan Duncan

Capitol Hill Pride to move forward with event despite lack of traffic control from SPD

The march is not being permitted because the Seattle Police Department has declined to provide traffic control, citing low staffing levels.
2 days ago
(KIRO 7)...
Shawn Garrett

Get up to $250 in Visa gift cards at Kirkland police’s gun exchange event

A program to exchange guns for gift cards will be hosted by the Kirkland Police Department on Saturday, according to a media release. The event will be held June 25 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Kirkland Justice Center, located at 11750 Northeast 118th Street. “Kirkland experienced six gun-related suicides since 2020,” said […]
2 days ago
Photo by Elena Di Vincenzo...
MyNorthwest Staff

King County prepares for possibility of another killer heat wave

King County has put together an Extreme Heat Mitigation Strategy to prepare for the rising temperatures set to start this weekend.
2 days ago
Photo by Lindsey Wasson...
Micki Gamez

Seattle is no longer the #1 bike friendly city in the nation

Even though Seattle was knocked off its pedestal, we are still one of the top ten bike-friendly cities in the nation.
2 days ago
Photo from @SeattleSBWU on Twitter...
Logan Gilbert

Starbucks workers go on strike over ‘union busting activity’

Starbucks workers announced they are going on strike today over the treatment of fellow workers.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
One Seattle judge, drug crimes, and a limited system