Everett Municipal Court (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Everett Municipal Court (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Everett approves minimum jail sentences for repeat offenders

The City Council passed a measure Wednesday in a 4-2 vote. It applies to a range of public disorder crimes.

EVERETT — Prosecutors in Everett can now seek a minimum of 30 days in jail for defendants convicted repeatedly of certain crimes, including assault, theft and public drug use.

The Everett City Council passed the sentencing ordinance Wednesday in a 4-2 vote, with council members Mary Fosse and Paula Rhyne opposed. Council member Liz Vogeli was absent.

The move follows a similar measure in Marysville, where the council recently adopted 30-day mandatory minimum sentences for “public disorder crimes.”

The Everett ordinance applies to the following crimes: assault, harassment, theft, public drug use, trespassing, vehicle prowling, loitering for the purpose of engaging in drug-related activity and criminal mischief for damaging another person’s property.

Prosecutors can ask for the 30-day minimum if a defendant has two or more convictions for those crimes in the two years before their new offense. The defendant could still enter a diversion program and avoid jail time.

“Public safety is the number one issue that we hear most about from our residents,” Mayor Cassie Franklin said at Wednesday’s meeting, “and I believe tools like this are useful in addressing some of the challenges in a way that balances accountability and compassion.”

Council member Don Schwab argued the measure would reduce recidivism and give crime victims hope that perpetrators will face consequences.

Fosse, on the other hand, took issue with the law taking away judicial discretion. She also expressed skepticism about mandatory minimums.

“All the data and information that I have been exposed to has shown that this is not where you get results,” she said. “This is not where you get safer communities.”

At Fosse’s suggestion, the council amended the ordinance to require city staff to report to the council annually on the law’s impact.

Several public commenters opposed the measure.

“If somebody has been charged and convicted of the same crime multiple times, then clearly jail is not working,” said Chelaina Crews, a social worker at the Snohomish County Public Defender Association. “The jail itself is also not a safe place for vulnerable people.”

Jason Cockburn, vice president and founder of the Second Chance Foundation, also spoke at the meeting. The foundation helps people get access to higher education, after they have dealt with homelessness, incarceration and addiction.

When you’re addicted to opioids, Cockburn said, jail is “akin to having the flu and having five officers come into your house and beat you with phone books. It’s no place for somebody that’s withdrawing.”

Another commenter, whose family member was a victim of murder, expressed her support for the law.

Her niece ”was homeless. She was addicted. She had two kids. She kept trying to help herself,” said the commenter, who didn’t state her full name.

Jail can be a way for people to get help, she noted.

Assistant city attorney Lacey Offutt introduced the bill to the council floor. At the meeting, Offutt said the law could persuade defendants to choose diversion programs rather than jail time.

The jail provides medical addiction treatment, she said, and social workers “can and do coordinate direct, or warm, handoffs to the diversion center for individuals leaving jail to await treatment,” including for mental health issues.

“A central tenet of criminal sentencing is that it takes into consideration the impact of the crime on the victims and the community,” Offutt said. “Devaluing that impact degrades our relationship with the community.”

Last week, Offutt estimated the ordinance could affect about 30 defendants a year, though she noted the number is difficult to predict.

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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