In a letter sent Tuesday, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn called for the council to address severe funding needs in the criminal justice system.
Citing shocking increases in homicides and hate crimes, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is calling for the County Council to address severe funding needs in the criminal justice system. The request, made in a letter (attached) sent today to Budget Chair Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Director Dwight Dively of the Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget, comes less than a week before the council is expected to pass a record $600M COVID relief package.
Dunn’s letter notes that despite the budget’s massive $600M total – larger than all previous COVID budgets combined – the current proposal all but ignores the on-the-ground impacts of 15 consecutive years of budget cuts within the criminal justice system. Dunn asserts that amid the continuing rise in violent crime and a massive backlog of court cases, the emergency COVID budget is currently poised to disregard the funding needs of the courts, prosecuting attorney’s office, and Department of Public Defense. Dunn’s call comes after the King County Council’s Budget and Financial Management Committee passed an amendment that adds $30.3 million in spending, and the council is still considering another $37.3 million in additional adds, sparking concern in the criminal justice community. King County Courts, the prosecutor’s office, public defenders, and others are relying on a dwindling fund balance for their budget requests delayed to the next supplemental budget.
Public safety is “one of the most basic duties of government,” Dunn writes in the letter. “If we do not address the alarming funding gap in the budget, we are risking the safety of our communities and our neighborhoods.” Dunn cites an 86% increase in homicides and murders, a 19% increase in gun violence, the doubling of hate crimes, and ongoing cuts to the King County Sheriff’s Office that have taken place over the past 15 years.
The budget proposal is currently being considered and amended by the council with a vote expected on Tuesday, May 25.