Kirkland’s New Community Court Emphasizes Compassionate Accountability
Published on March 10, 2021
Resource Center Open to All Members of the Community
Interim Communications Program Manager
KIRKLAND, Wash. – Today, March 10, 2021, the City of Kirkland will launch 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. Modeled after similar courts located across the nation such as Redmond, Spokane, New York, San Diego and Atlanta, 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.
In addition to the Community Court, the affiliated Community Resource Center provides access to services related to healthcare and insurance, DSHS 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 2:00- 4:00 p.m. during which time volunteer moderators/navigators are available to connect people to the services they need. The Community Resource Center is provided in collaboration with King County District Court and is available to all members of the public in addition to Community Court participants.
“Through the Community Court, we are able to find family and community-oriented solutions,” said Kirkland Municipal Court Judge John Olson. “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, which does not address why the crime is happening. 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, which fosters community engagement.
“We’ve seen neighboring communities have success with their community courts,” said Kirkland Councilmember Toby Nixon. “It makes sense to address the underlying challenges of court participants that may contribute to further criminal activity. By providing services and increasing community engagement and connection, we can reduce crime.”
More information about the Community Court and the Community Resource Center can be found on the City’s website. The Community Court is part of the City of Kirkland’s 2021 Community Safety Initiative which is designed to help Kirkland become a more equitable city where Black community members feel safe and respected and structural racism is eliminated.