Law school provides space for county juvenile diversion program

September 22, 2014

A life-changing program to divert youth from the criminal justice system now meets monthly at Seattle University School of Law.

The 180 Program run by the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office uses space in the School of Law Annex for its workshops aimed at turning around the lives of youth facing their first or second low-level misdemeanor offenses.  Instead of filing charges against these young offenders in Juvenile Court, the prosecutor's office invites them to participate in a half-day Saturday workshop sponsored by community members.

Participants hear from others who have made mistakes in their past but went on to make a 180-degree change in their own lives. Community members share their insights and offer an opportunity to connect with positive role models. Small group exercises allow youth to talk about the issues affecting their lives.

"The deal with the juveniles is if you go through the 180 Program we won't file that case," Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said. "You'll avoid the stigma of being charged with a crime and the stigma of a criminal conviction on your record."

The law school came to host the program because of strong ties between the law school and the prosecutor's office and the work of the student group Future Prosecutors for Social Justice. The group, now its second year, became involved with the program and even raised almost $500 to donate to support it.

They approached Dean Annette E. Clark when they learned the program was losing its meeting space. She was eager to lend support to the prosecutor's office. Working with Deputy Chief of Staff Leesa Manion '96, the law school offered space for the Saturday workshops starting in July. The next workshop is Saturday, Sept. 27.

"The 180 Program is an incredible example of a community-centered approach to prosecutorial discretion," said Violetta Stringer '15, one of the FPJF board members. "A prosecutor has great authority to create systemic change in the furtherance of social justice."

Prosecutors estimate about 350 youth participate in a given year - youth they hope they won't see in court in the future.

"We're going to measure success one kid at a time," Satterberg said