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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Community Court offenders' salmon mural to be dedicated Oct. 15

10/11/2010  1:00:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

When Chuck Dickey, the unofficial mayor of the Lake City neighborhood, was asked to put Seattle Community Court offenders to work in his community, he says he initially had a hard time with the idea.

That was then -- 22 months ago. This is now -- and the non-violent misdemeanor offenders whom Dickey supervises have put the finishing touches on another project to benefit Lake City. This time it's a 90-foot-long mural adorning a concrete wall on the north property line of the Lake City Community Center, 12525 28th Ave NE. The theme is, appropriately, salmon; community activists bake 1,500 pieces of salmon on green alder for Pioneer Day festivities as part of SeaFair. The mural depicting salmon swimming upstream to spawn as well as downstream to Puget Sound will be dedicated at the center at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15.

“They're not afraid to tackle anything I line up for them," Dickey says of the work crews from Community Court, who spend the first and third Thursdays every month in Lake City. Rather than go to jail, the offenders who enter Community Court help themselves in overcoming their own problems as they complete community service to improve Seattle neighborhoods.

Dickey's task list is varied, including picking up litter and cleaning streets. "If they don't want to paint, then they pull out blackberry bushes," he says. "We couldn't do it without the Court. I enjoy working with them, or I wouldn't do it."

After the mural dedication, maintenance will be handled by Dickey and other Lake City Community Center members, with the help of Community Court workers for the duration of the partnership. While on the job, the crews are supervised by AmeriCorps volunteers and program coordinator Stephanie Tschida.

Speakers on Friday’s event include City Attorney Pete Holmes and Seattle Police Department North Precinct Liaison Ed McKenna, an assistant city attorney who was instrumental in helping to start the partnership between Community Court and Lake City.

When Community Court began in March 2005, defendants were mainly from downtown Seattle and Pioneer Square. The first year, 228 defendants opted in; in 2009, 1,024 participated voluntarily. Over five years, more than 38,000 hours of community service have been logged. This year, the court was named one of three Mentor Courts in the country by the U.S. Justice Department.

As a mentor court, the Seattle program is a role model for other cities looking for effective ways to address chronic public system users -- those defendants who repeatedly commit low-level misdemeanor crimes related to their homelessness, unemployment, alcohol or drug use. While in the program, participants are assessed for social service needs and must contact the appropriate agencies to try to address the underlying issues leading to their crimes.

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