King County Prosecutor: Jail time not the solution to homelessness, drug addiction

Feb 13, 2020, 12:54 PM | Updated: 4:45 pm

According to King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, there are “strategies” to solve the drug problem, homelessness, and violence in our community, as well as “choices to make about things we can invest in.”

“It’s cheaper to help people than it is to punish them,” Satterberg said.

Seattle council members look to rescue LEAD program

Putting every person in jail for every crime has not worked in the past, Satterberg said when he visited KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show in studio Thursday, citing drug cases when he started as a prosecutor 35 years ago.

“We can invest a whole bunch of money into the criminal justice system and say, ‘Let’s lock up people who have a drug addiction,’ and we did that [in the ’80s],” Satterberg said. “Frankly, if prosecuting people who had a drug addiction worked, we wouldn’t have a drug problem today.”

LEAD, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, a program Satterberg helped start nine years ago, created a strategy to connect and help people, particularly those with drug addictions, instead of putting them behind bars.

“What LEAD does is it gives the police officer that extra chance, that option, one more tool on the tool belt, rather than take you to jail for that little bit of heroin that was in the needle that I found in your pocket, instead, let’s call a case manager who can start working with that person on all the things they need to stabilize themselves,” Satterberg said.

He referred to this as the “harm reduction format.”

“It helps people do less harm to themselves, thus less harm to the community,” Satterberg said.

Show host Ursula Reutin raised the issue of repeat offenders, citing a 2019 report from the Downtown Seattle Association that showed 100 of the most prolific offenders were responsible for a majority of the crimes, most of them homeless or addicted to drugs.

While there is no evidence to show that the suspects of the recent shooting in downtown Seattle were dealing drugs, Marquise Tolbert and William Tolliver are repeat offenders, with 60 combined arrests between the two of them.

Satterberg noted that a lot of these arrests were because the two men did not show up for court. After being charged with a misdemeanor, if the person does not show up to court, the judge issues an arrest warrant.

“In misdemeanor courts, you don’t get a lot of time in jail,” Satterberg said. “Cities don’t want to pay for somebody to be in jail for a year when they shoplifted something. So it’s a series of court appearances, convictions, maybe a brief time in jail if you didn’t show up for court and you got picked up on a warrant.”

It’s not until someone is charged with a felony that prison comes into the conversation, according to Satterberg. Under Washington state sentencing law, there is still a certain number of felony convictions required to get to prison, as opposed to jail.

Satterberg clarified that prison is where people are sent when serving a sentence of a year or more, where jail is less than a year.

Reutin pressed Satterberg on complaints that the county’s justice system has become a revolving door.

Rantz: Cops explain how to stop violent crime in Seattle

The system, Satterberg believes, does not allow for preventative detention or action as it exists now.

“This frustration is real, it’s legitimate,” Satterberg said. “But a lot of times people express a desire about a justice system that they wish we had and not the one that we actually have.”

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.

Gee and Ursula Show

Gee and Ursula

income tax, Olympia...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Gee & Ursula: Is it time for an income tax in Washington state?

Is it time for an income tax in Washington state? The Gee and Ursula Show team wants to dig into a few more details on this proposal before supporting it.
1 day ago
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Gee & Ursula: Data shows pandemic has impacted learning for Washington students

Test scores in Washington have dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 30% of students in grades 4-11 meeting standards in math.
5 days ago
dan price...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gee interviews CEO Dan Price on latest episode of ‘Leaving a Legacy’

On episode three of “Leaving a Legacy,” Gee Scott interviews Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price, who famously paid all his employees a $70,000 minimum salary.
5 days ago
Free speech, election fraud...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Gee & Ursula: No winners in battle over limiting free speech in Washington

Proposals that seek to limit aspects of free speech are coming from both sides of the aisle during the current legislative session in Washington state.
6 days ago
Bruce Harrell inaugural address...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Seattle Mayor Harrell looks to form third public safety department for unarmed responders

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell wants to supplement the city's police and fire departments with a third public safety department.
10 days ago
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Gee & Ursula: Report shows most Kroger grocery workers struggle to afford food

A new report shows that more than two-thirds of Kroger grocery workers are struggling to afford food, housing, or other basic needs.
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles


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, 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 […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
King County Prosecutor: Jail time not the solution to homelessness, drug addiction