Resolution on Keeping Counselors at Seattle Municipal Court

November 19, 2020

Resolution to Keep Counselors Working at the Seattle Municipal Court


WHEREAS, the Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) Executive Leadership Team (ELT) submitted a budget to the Seattle city council that included a 25% reduction to the Programs & Services department;

WHEREAS, this proposal would lead to five SMC Probational Councilors being laid off and many others being demoted to different positions within Programs and Services and a Teamsters 763 administrative worker transferred out of the department;

WHEREAS, no plan has been developed to mitigate the impacts on the community, clients, and staff; 

WHEREAS, the employees impacted by the 25% reduction are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and this proposed reduction further perpetuates institutional racism at SMC; 

WHEREAS, the reduction in staff eliminates counselors with decades of experience supervising and assisting clients struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues;

WHEREAS, the reduction in staff will increase caseloads, severely limiting time given to high-risk clients needing the most attention and care in order for them to meet court-ordered requirements, and in order to reduce recidivism;

WHEREAS, the reduction in staff will mean fewer resources available for state-mandated alternatives to jail in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases (Work Crew, Community Service Crew);

WHEREAS, the reduction in staff will drastically limit, if not eliminate, time counselors have to spend with clients in the Court Resource Center, helping connect them with vital social services; and

WHEREAS, the reduction in staff will impact detained individuals who will receive less time and attention from probation staff currently tasked with release research, and those needing warrant quashing in the community;

WHEREAS, members of PROTEC17 who work as Probation Counselors understand the need for true criminal justice reform and that human needs should not be met through a system that criminalizes people; an 

WHEREAS, placing a client on probation is completely reliant on judicial discretion and probation counselors play no role whatsoever in who their clients are; and

WHEREAS, reducing the Programs and Services department may lead to more clients being placed in jail both pre and post-trial; and

WHEREAS, there is currently a viable alternative by only cutting 14% of the budget, which is met through the elimination of currently vacant positions. 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that without a just transition for both the workers and the clients, true criminal justice reform is not met; in reality, these cuts could result in real harm to the clients and the community 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, SMC probation counselors, who are the subject matter experts and are most familiar with client and community needs, need to be given a seat at the table when making decisions about transforming their positions; and

People who have been SMC probation clients, who are the subject matter experts on the impact of municipal court policies, be given a seat at the table when making decisions about transforming the criminal legal system, which, among other collateral consequences, impacts their ability to engage in the labor force as workers; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the MLK Labor Council support the SMC Probation Councilors and Teamsters administrative workers and their demands that the Court reverse its decision to cut Programs and Services by 25%. And, instead immediately begin the process of engaging the community, including clients, and rank and file SMC workers to transition the entire municipal court system to align with the powerful call for a reimagined public safety system.

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