Kirkland implements community court for low-level offenders

The city will take a “compassionate approach,” to treating the underlying factors of crime.

Last week, The City of Kirkland launched a new problem-solving court to “assist”, rather than incarcerate, those who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes and who meet other criteria such as having no violent felony convictions in the past five years.

Kirkland’s Community Court takes a “compassionate approach,” to dealing with crimes that are often committed due to life circumstances such as mental illness or poverty, according to the city’s press release.

In addition to the Community Court, the affiliated Community Resource Center provides access to services related to healthcare and insurance, Dept. of Social and Health Services access and applications, education, job training, behavioral health, substance use disorders, housing, food, clothing, library services, transportation, civil legal matters, dispute resolution, and mediation.

Currently operating virtually via Zoom and phone, the Community Resource Center is open Wednesdays between 2 pm and 4 pm during which time volunteer moderators/navigators are available to connect people to the services they need.

“Through the Community Court, we are able to find family and community-oriented solutions,” said Kirkland Municipal Court Judge John Olson via press release. “When you help people get the resources that they need to be successful, they have a better chance of getting out of the criminal justice system and turning their lives around.”

The Community Court addresses nonviolent crimes such as theft, shoplifting, trespassing, and other low-level offenses.

Traditionally, punitive action is taken against crimes like these, but the paradigm by which we look at punitive justice is changing.

At the Community Resource Center, Community Court participants have the opportunity to sign up for services such as drug and alcohol treatment, financial and housing assistance, and employment services. Participants are also often required to perform community service, according to the press release.