Seattle prosecutor Dan Satterberg continues “peacemaking circles” approach to juvenile crime despite murder charges against one of its participants.
Robbery suspect Diego Carballo-Oliveros, 16, appeared capable of considerable violence and faced the possibility of years locked in a Seattle juvenile jail. He could have been the ideal test case, the kid who proved that a therapeutic approach to juvenile justice could catch the most challenging teens before they graduated to a lifetime in prison. Instead, he became the boy who nearly dashed King County’s fledgling effort to confront youth crime in new ways, The Seattle Times reports. Chief Juvenile Prosecutor Jimmy Hung found himself exasperated by the endlessly repeating cycle of lockup, release, new charges and more lockup.
“Peacemaking circles” — a lengthy process designed to increase empathy and strengthen bonds between kids and their communities — offered the hope of something different. Prosecutors had already used it with two young men facing robbery and harassment charges, and both had cleared their records. Hung took a chance on Carballo-Oliveros, who told 30 adults at his pre-sentencing circle that he understood the harm he’d done. Two weeks later, he was charged with stabbing a 15-year-old to death a month earlier. The case has not deterred King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who believes the approach — focused on healing rather than punishment, self-reflection rather than incarceration — offers the best chance for stemming juvenile crime. Each circle includes many hours of sitting in a circle with counselors, family members, victim advocates, educators and a juvenile-court judge.