News Jul 7, 2022 at 12:47 pm

One Case Reveals a Solution in Search of a Problem

The City Attorney's latest effort to crack down on repeat offenders targets people who jail won't help. CROUTON



"Jane was dismissed after the court found her incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness. "

Any decision that a person is incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness should be accompanied by a civil commitment order. If they are too nuts to stand trial then they are too nuts to be allowed out in society.

For the last50 to 75 years we've catered to the incompetent. It's time to stop, throw them in Bedlam and keep them separate from the vast majority of the population who can handle themselves in public.


@1 If you review the record, you'll find that it was Saint Ronald Reagan who slashed the funding for inpatient mental hospitals. It's certainly not the liberals who don't want to fund treatment...


I agree it's the last 40 years since Ronnie gutted public mental healthcare, not '50-75 years'


If someone is on medication and showing improvement its going to be harder to show that they couldn't have been able to know what they were doing was wrong at the time of the theft.


Obviously we need to relocate all these people to Wallinford in 40 story residential housing built along the new at-grade light rail line.

This will both provide them access to services and highly irritate all the people who say one thing on their many signs and stickers and do the exact opposite in actual practice ... Hi Neighbors!


In fairness, when viewed in terms of "hurting the people [they] needs to be hurting" it seems like the policy should yield "positive" results.


It's certainly true that Reagan dramatically reduced funding for inpatient mental hospitals as part of the neoliberal effort to simultaneously reduce taxes and federal budget deficits. But that was also the culmination of a political effort supported by both liberals and conservatives that started after WWII and accelerated in the 1960s and 70s. The idea, supported by changing (sympathetic) social attitudes and improved pharmaceuticals, was to move the functional mentally ill from "Cuckoo's Nest" style treatment facilities into community based residential environments. The idea didn't work. State funding was inadequate and sporadic. Many of the residential facilities had problems managing people with significant problems. Neighbors complained and neighborhoods resisted having these homes nearby. Eventually, the mentally ill mostly ended up back at home or on the streets. The intentions were good but the result was horrible.


@2 & 3
Yes Reagan and the Republicans gutted funding but it was the ACLU that sued to allow the crazies the "right" to refuse treatment.

Combined it results in crazy people publicly defeating while injecting themselves with heroin.

I'm completely in favor of fully funding Western State and building more hospitals like it. I'm also in favor of returning to civil commitments and getting these nutcases off the street.


Is there a reason the nature of "Jane's" current charges and past referrals was omitted?


@10: Yes, there certainly was a lot of information omitted, especially for someone who appeared in open court. Here are a few more questions:

Has 'Jane' been through Community Court previously? If so, how many times? (Because she hasn't been "convicted of a crime in the last four years," but "cops had arrested and referred her for prosecution twelve or more times in the last five years, including at least once within the last eight months.") So, she was arrested and referred at least once during the period since she had been convicted of a crime. Was that the time she was deemed incompetent to stand trial? During the past eight months, was she arrested more times than just once?

'Her attorney also said she hadn’t been convicted of a crime in the last four years and should be considered a “success story” for the City’s diversion programs.'

Well, if the only point of "the City’s diversion programs" is to keep persons out of jail, then, yes, 'Jane' should indeed 'be considered a “success story”.' If the purpose is to get help for persons like 'Jane,' the account is not so clear, as she seems to have gotten help only after she was deemed mentally unfit for trial, which happened outside of the diversionary programs. If the purpose is to help other citizens from becoming victims of crime, well, her arrest record suggests that purpose has not been served.

And, I agree with @1: "Any decision that a person is incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness should be accompanied by a civil commitment order." Otherwise, we're essentially setting the person up to re-offend, as 'Jane' already has.


I appreciated this write-up, Will. Thank you.


It currently costs about $200 a day to keep someone in County lockup or roughly $6,000 a month. And the chuckleheads here (who invariably scream bloody murder whenever anyone broaches the subject of taxes) apparently think that's a good use of the public's money for someone who probably shoplifted a fraction of a percentage of that amount in merchandise the last time they were apprehended. But then that's conservatives for you: they'll spend $6,000 to save $20, because, um, something, something personal responsibility, something.



I don't disagree with much, if any of what you're saying, but it's also worth noting that our society doesn't currently have anywhere near the number of trained and qualified mental health professionals and/or facilities needed to house and treat all of the would be institutionalized people your suggestion would require. We'll need a gigantic-ass influx of public and private funds to actually bring this idea to fruition. While we're at it, I think we should also lower the barrier to young professionals willing to dedicate themselves to social work. LCSW's are saintly in their endeavors, but the time, financial and educational burdens to obtain clinical social work licenses are overwhelming for lots of decent minded and hard working folks who could be making a difference in their communities.


This dreck disguised as some sort of investigative reporting is such a great example of why we can’t make progress on this issue. It’s viewed entirely through the lens of the perpetrator not the actual victims. As mentioned above how many times does Jane get to go through diversionary court until we say enough and just put her in timeout for 3-6 months? Jane has been offered services and is either unwilling or unable to accept them. At some point the public good needs to take precedent over Jane and her bullshit. The reason Jane and her friends are so prolific is because there are no consequences. If we send a message that this is not acceptable anymore I’d be willing to bet we’d see an overall decline that would balance the cost benefit of putting a few of them in jail for a bit. Will maybe next you should center the voices of those who have been victimized by Jane instead of holding her up as some sort of example the system is broken.



Go count more bullet-riddled dead bodies you worthless fuck.


Go Ann! F*ck the Stranger, the leftists on city council , Pete Holmes, the Public Defender’s Association, Reach and this nonsense. After years of the revolving door of Community Court that has let repeat offenders trash the city and terrorize neighborhoods with no consequences or meaningful intervention, this common sense course correction is long overdue.


What does it matter that a meta-analysis shows custodial sanctions may have a (non-significant!) increase in recidivism for people who have been referred 12 or more times already? They are already in a loop of recidivism.


"Jane" can fuck right off.


Some sob-story non-profit would have bailed them out and you know it. What? They'll pay thousands in bail to get violent offenders out, but not $500 to bail out a thief?

Speaking of bail...does $2700 bail for being a felon in possession of a stolen firearm seem a bit light to you with all the talk around preventing violent gun crime lately? Or is that just another big mean move by the court and it should be zero? But I digress..

And your last paragraph is literally what people have been saying for a decade now; but who is this "we"?
Who are the "we" that are going to stand-up proper mental health and addiction centers because voters can't do it. It is up to the city, county, and state but apparently they are cool with the current state of things.


@21: At least the Stranger is, finally, beginning to admit 'Jane' and many others like her (she was recently homeless, although you have to read very carefully to glean that fact from this article) are not in their predicaments due to economic reasons, but because of mental disorders. As noted above, it's going to take a lot more money to help 'Jane' than even the expense of jail time, but as also noted above, is the city running the justice system solely for the benefit 'Jane,' or also for the benefit of citizens who pay for their own housing, run businesses, do not commit multiple crimes, and otherwise do everything which makes a city worth living in?

@13: The very first comment here implied the readers are willing to spend a lot more money to help 'Jane,' and others like her, and that has been borne out in other comments. No one has said anything about a tax burden. The question becomes: for the money spent, does 'Jane' get the help she needs, or do taxpayers fund just another unproductive round for her through the judicial system (or diversionary programs) without altering "Jane's" behavior? Contrary to the material you pulled straight from your ass, petty thefts can cause a lot of economic damage to small businesses, and if Seattle can't help "Jane," then it can at least use existing infrastructure to keep her from harming others. That's hardly anyone's optimal outcome, but it would seem to be better than what 'Jane' has been getting so far.


OK but how do you make whole folks who are on the receiving end of the crime? Doesn’t their safety and livelihood count for something?


@13. Nobody else’s safety or small business matters to the leftist ideologues, only the rights of the out-of-state drug vagrant/anarchist/ shitbag that they want to use as props to push their political agenda.


People need to let go of the "treatment" delusion. Like, if only we pill someone up enough and/or give them access to someone with a master's degree with whom they could talk, that would magically fix them. A person who has been homeless, and continues to be homeless, in a society where being homeless alone is a criminal act, is gonna pretty mentally ill. Pills and talk aren't gonna fix that. Not having a housing market that is a sick profit scheme preying on a captive audience might be a solution.

Mental illness is really common. It's an adaptive response to a dysfunctional and self-destructing society. Most people suffer from delusion of some sort. For example, if you believe in god, or what is essentially a magical sky dad, that's an objectively insane delusion. Another common delusion is karma. Have fun with your delusions as society fails. I hope they keep you warm and comfy at night. Remember, you're right, and everything is gonna be ok. >=^p

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