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Probation Counselors Prepare for Seattle Community Court with Community Service Site Visit

Probation Counselor Curtis Bright, Community Service Lead Naikia Howard, Probation Counselor Sokpul Chea

By Curtis Bright

When the new Seattle Community Court launched on August 10, 2020, it was the result of over a year of planning and months of preparation by Seattle Municipal Court’s Programs and Services staff. Over the summer, Probation Counselors Leah Pastrana, Curtis Bright, Sokpul Chea, and Community Service Crew Lead Naikia Howard scoped out the community service sites and got a feel for what a day of community service would look like for the participants who choose to opt into the Seattle Community Court program.

But wait a minute, we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves. What exactly is Seattle Community Court? In short, Community Court provides an alternative to incarceration for participants who wish to access meaningful services, connect with valuable resources to address underlying needs, and give back through community-based service. Instead of spending time in jail, participants connect with social service providers based on their needs, and complete a day of community service if they are able. Probation counselors make it easy to complete the community service by providing transportation for clients to and from community work sites and providing free lunch.

Industrial building with graffiti on it
SoDo graffiti abatement site, in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities
Side of building with graffiti
Graffiti abatement project, in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities

5 reasons why SCC is different from traditional court processes:

  1. Pretrial Release: Reduces pretrial incarceration and incarceration for non-compliance
  2. Connection: Connects participants to meaningful social services
  3. Community Service: Provides valuable service to local communities
  4. Case Resolution / Immediacy: Efficiently resolves low-level, non-violent cases within 15-45 days
  5. Reduced Justice System Involvement: Reduces time and money spent in criminal justice system
 Probation Counselor Leah and Crew Lead Naikia reviewing community service supplies at work site
Probation Counselor Leah and Crew Lead Naikia reviewing community service supplies at work site
Curtis wearing an orange safety vest that says "Seattle Community Court: Investing in our Community" on the back
Probation Counselor Curtis gathering the SCC safety vests

Priority number one in these COVID-19 times is health and safety for staff and participants, so Naikia created a checklist of CDC guidelines for staff to follow when transporting and engaging with participants in the community. For example, everyone is temperature checked before entering the vehicle, masks are required, and a minimal number of occupants are transported at one time in order to ensure proper social distancing.

Seattle Community Court launched on August 10 with a phased start to the program, as the court continues to monitor Washington State’s COVID-19 requirements and precautions. After a few test runs out in the field, Pretrial Services staff were ready to safely welcome participants to the new Community Court!