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Community group: Solution to Seattle violence ‘takes a village,’ not prison time

The scene of a fatal shooting in downtown Seattle. (Getty Images)

Seattle continues to search for answers in the wake of a tragic shooting in the downtown core. In terms of preventative measures against future violence, one local organization looks to ensure that at-risk kids are given the support they need before they’re stuck cycling in and out of the justice system.

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“We get referrals from all systems — probation officers, defense attorneys, some prosecutors, some judges, then a lot of it comes from community people,” Community Passageways CEO Dominique Davis told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

Community Passages is a Seattle-based nonprofit that’s been operating since 2017, working as a felony diversion and prevention program for the city’s youth. While the steps it’s taken to bring troubled kids into the fold have been positive, it’s been an uphill battle.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child — our village has been decimated,” Davis said, pointing to things like three-strikes laws, extra police patrols, and the war on drugs as approaches that have served only to hurt underprivileged communities, rather than lift them up.

“But we’ve created a new village and we operate like a family,” Davis added.

A pair of 24-year-old suspects from January’s shooting in downtown Seattle are currently awaiting extradition from Las Vegas, both of whom have dozens of arrests and convictions on their records. For Davis, preventing that shooting would have been less about keeping either suspect in jail, and more about helping them years ago, before it was too late.

“I’ll just talk about one of the [suspects] — his dad was imprisoned most of his life; mom was on drugs most of his life. He couch-surfed. He ate at different people’s houses,” Davis said. “What if we were able to take that young man, get him a job, get him in school, [and] have a support system of community ambassadors?”

“[What if we] surround him and give him some love and affection, and make sure we hold his hand, so that he knows, ‘we’re going to help you through this education process; we’ll help you get a job; we’re going to help you get an apartment; we’re gonna make you feel whole again,’ right? That shooting would have never happened.”

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These are solutions Davis says are necessary to help us “think outside of that punitive box we’re so stuck in.”

That said, he also recognizes the fear that pervades a community after high-profile violence. But to give in to that fear, he argues, only feeds back into what’s become a vicious cycle.

“People operate out of fear, and when the community starts operating out of fear, they keep going back to the same old thing that makes them feel comfortable,” Davis said. “That’s not fixing anything. How many times has it worked so far? Have extra patrols and more time in prison stopped the violence yet?”

You can learn more about the work Community Passageways does at its website here.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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