Spokane Community Court Helps Keep Offenders Out Of Jail

Sep 7, 2019

Social service agencies and others provide help to offenders whose cases are heard in the city of Spokane's community help.
Credit City of Spokane

A new report by Washington State University researchers says the city of Spokane’s community court is effective at keeping offenders from re-offending.

The community court serves people who commit low-level offenses.

The researchers’ evaluation was released this week.

Spokane’s community court convenes on Mondays in the downtown library and Tuesdays at the Northeast Community Center. There’s little of the formality of a regular courtroom. To the periphery of the legal space, social service agencies and other organizations set up tables and provide assistance to the people who go before the court.

Seth Hackenberg is the court’s coordinator. He says the WSU study found a large part of the court’s success is due to those supporting services.

“Not just for the people that are participants in the court, but also for the general public. We have a lot of individuals who come in right off the street to get access to these services. There’s a lot of that that’s really, really helpful. The report itself, like I said, was mostly commissioned to look at the effectiveness as far as the court addressing these issues and, overall, I think we did a very good job," Hackenberg said.

But there are things to work on.

“We really need more case managers downtown, which are through those service providers," said Presiding Judge Mary Logan. "The court doesn’t hire them. But if there were more case managers down there who could take the individuals once they’ve entered into court and then assist them through other service provision or community service, like the fact that we have drug/alcohol evaluators down at the library now to do the evaluations, is a boon.”

Hackenberg says the court has arranged to provide transportation to clients who otherwise couldn’t get to services they need. He says the court will work to include more service providers. And he says has committed to administering its risk assessment to all of its clients. That’s a test that tries to pinpoint all of their needs and predict whether clients are likely to commit other offenses.