King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion Reflects on Progress and Challenges in First 18 Months

King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion discusses progress and challenges in her first 18 months, highlighting efforts to rebuild law enforcement relationships, reduce juvenile crime, and address violent crime through collaboration and early intervention.

King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion Reflects on Progress and Challenges in First 18 Months

In an in-depth Hacks & Wonks interview, King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion discussed her first year and a half in office, highlighting steps taken to rebuild relationships with law enforcement, expand diversion programs for juveniles, and respond to concerning crime trends.

Since taking office in January 2023, Manion has prioritized attending meetings with police chiefs and sheriffs across the county's 39 cities to collaborate on public safety. "I have presented to their command staff when asked, I share information," she said. "I created what I consider to be an accountability sheet for every single law enforcement agency in King County that shows the number of cases that each agency refers to us, how many cases we file, how many cases we decline, and how many cases of theirs we resolve in a year."

Manion noted that overall crime trended downward in 2023 from pandemic highs, but violent crime, especially among juveniles, remains a concern. "Violent crime seems to have plateaued a bit, and same with gun crime. However, the number of juveniles involved in gun crime has been a slight uptick," she said. "We have seen an uptick in juvenile crime since the pandemic, but we are not yet at pre-pandemic levels."

To address youth crime, Manion emphasized a "Yes, And" approach that includes both accountability for serious offenses and robust diversion programs for appropriate cases. She highlighted the promising results of initiatives like Restorative Community Pathways and Family Intervention and Restorative Services (FIRS).

"I'm a huge fan of FIRS because it helps people and it helps families," Manion explained. Instead of being held in secure facilities, eligible youth can stay at an overnight respite center and receive immediate services along with their families. "Domestic violence in the juvenile realm used to be one of our most disproportionate crimes. Now we divert about 350 cases a year out of the criminal justice system and we're getting better outcomes. So building on that model, I think, is why we're seeing early success in Restorative Community Pathways for the right cases."

Looking ahead, Manion identified human trafficking, wage theft, and investing in early intervention as key priorities. She called for more resources for victim advocacy and support services.

"If I could wave a magic wand, I would have a lot more social workers. I would have a lot more therapists. I'd have more social workers in schools working alongside teachers and administrators," she said. "If we could address root causes for those who have been victimized and for those who have caused harm, and for those that we are trying so hard to keep out of the system like our young people … that's the type of world I'd like to build."

As Manion continues her term, balancing public safety, accountability, and prevention remains at the forefront. Realizing those priorities will require sustained collaboration, resources, and political will.

About the Guest

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion

Leesa Manion is the first woman, the first person of color, and the first Asian-American to be elected to serve as King County Prosecuting Attorney. Leesa is also the first Korean-American woman in the United States to be elected Prosecuting Attorney.

Prior to her election in 2022, Leesa served as Chief of Staff of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (PAO) for 15 years.  

During the course of her career, Leesa has implemented effective programs that have improved public safety, enhanced victim services, and reduced racial disproportionality.  

She was a co-founding partner of Choose 180, a proven and effective pre-filed diversion program that helped reduce juvenile crime to all time lows.  Leesa was also a key stakeholder in launching the PAO’s Regional Domestic Violence Firearm Enforcement Unit, which leads the nation in its multi-disciplinary approach to tracking and enforcing Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), as well as the removal, storage and return of surrendered firearms across all of King County.  

Leesa serves on the Boards of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and is an award-winning member of the Korean Prosecutors Association and a member of the Korean American Bar Association (KABA) of Washington.  She is a former Board Member for Pioneer Human Services and the Beecher’s Foundation. 

Leesa was an advisor for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) “Unbundle Policing” Solve Venture Lab Initiative, which focused on improving public safety and policing in the United States.  She was also a member of the Juvenile Prosecutor’s Leadership Network, which was organized within Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform.

Outside of the office Leesa enjoys spending time with her two teenage children.


King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office

Organizational Structure | King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office Blog

Restorative Community Pathways

[August 11, 2005] “Car thieves put on notice” by Brian Alexander from The Seattle Times

Seattle police stopped investigating new adult sexual assaults this year, memo shows” by Sydney Brownstone and Ashley Hiruko from The Seattle Times and KUOW

Family Intervention and Restorative Services (FIRS) | King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

Family Intervention and Restorative Services (FIRS) | King County Superior Court

Step-Up Program | King County Superior Court

MLK Labor hosting wage theft summit Feb. 9 in Seattle” by MLK Labor for The Stand

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episode notes.

The prosecuting attorney is a position that impacts the lives of everyone in King County. As the top prosecutor in the county, the prosecuting attorney represents the state and county in both criminal and civil legal matters. They're responsible for prosecuting all felonies in King County and all misdemeanors in unincorporated areas of King County. The misdemeanor crimes in Seattle and other cities are referred to separate city attorney's offices. They're also the county's law firm. They serve as the legal counsel to the Metropolitan King County Council, County Executive and all of the executive agencies, Superior and District Courts, County Assessor, independent boards and commissions, and some school districts. Additionally, they're a key part of the federal and state child support system. Their teams establish paternity for children born out of wedlock - ensuring support and obligations are enforced and modify support amounts when necessary.

But their influence extends far beyond the courtroom. The prosecuting attorney shapes policies around criminal justice diversion programs and victim support that can make our communities safer and more just. Today, in this episode, we sit down with King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion to discuss her first 18 months on the job. We'll explore the challenges she's faced, the innovation she’s pursuing, and her vision for a prosecutorial approach that balances accountability with rehabilitation. Whether you're passionate about public safety, concerned about racial equity in our legal system, or simply want to be an informed voter, understanding the role of the prosecuting attorney is critical. So join us as we pull back the curtain on this consequential office and the woman currently leading it. Welcome.

[00:02:32] Leesa Manion: It's so good to be here. Thank you, Crystal, for having me back on the show.

[00:02:36] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - great to have you back. The last time we spoke was before you were elected - you were running for office - the voters of the county saw fit to elect you to the office, thought your vision was superior and responded in-kind. So just starting off - what's been going right and what have been the challenges?

[00:02:59] Leesa Manion: After winning the election and before taking office, I engaged upon a listening tour, both of deputy prosecuting attorneys [DPAs] and legal service professionals [LSPs] within the office, but also partner agencies, law enforcement, community-based nonprofits. And there were three main themes that arose from those listening sessions. There was a call for innovation in all parts of the office. There was a desire to have additional leadership opportunities. My DPAs and LSPs didn't want to feel like their supervisors had to retire in order to lead. They also had a desire for additional training, and that included concrete trial skills training, leadership development training, management training, race equity social justice training. So I have worked really hard to deliver that internally and to build a strong team. I feel like my team is deserving of that, and I'm so proud of the way that they have leaned in to the changes that I've made to the office. And I'm happy to talk about that.

Another endeavor that I engaged upon that was really important to me was to rebuild relationships with law enforcement. I have mentioned this in a number of different forums - I have nothing but respect for Dan Satterberg, but he did not attend our monthly police chiefs and sheriffs meetings, which I always said to Dan I thought was a mistake. Because if you're not in the room, you can't build relationships. So I've been going to our monthly King County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs meeting, I have presented to their command staff when asked, I share information. I created what I consider to be an accountability sheet for every single law enforcement agency in King County that shows the number of cases that each agency refers to us, how many cases we file, how many cases we decline, and how many cases of theirs we resolve in a year. Now, it's not a neat and tidy 2023 to 2023 because some cases get referred to us in '22 or get resolved in 2024. But it's just one way of letting law enforcement and the communities that we serve know that we are staying on top of things and we're taking our responsibility seriously.

[00:05:16] Crystal Fincher: So what has feedback been like from different law enforcement agencies and different cities that you build relationships with? Because I think to your point, there were fractures there before - certainly criticism that those relationships were poor. What has the feedback and the response been?

[00:05:34] Leesa Manion: I feel generally the response from law enforcement has been positive. I have been welcomed into the King County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs meeting. I think it was my second meeting - they voted to make me a voting member. They all know that they can reach me and I feel like I've shown up in some very transparent ways. I also hope and feel that our law enforcement partners know that if they have a disagreement or a criticism, that I also want to hear that. I definitely want to be able to talk things out - I feel it's so important for me to be held accountable for the decisions of the office - and I'm happy to share the rationale behind my decision making. Similarly, I have been really honestly sharing information from the Prosecuting Attorney's Office in a way that's been unprecedented. I send information to our cities, particularly relating to crime trends or if there is a big case that we have filed coming out of their jurisdiction. Because I want our mayors and our city councilmembers to know what we're up to and also what kind of cases are coming into our office that are impacting their communities. I have received a lot of questions, for example, from the City of Bellevue - both from the mayor, deputy mayor, and also some city councilmembers - as it relates to crime statistics or outcomes on a specific case. And my comms team proactively pushes out information to city councilmembers as well - that doesn't in any way suggest that we are perfect, and it doesn't suggest that the council or the cities have all of the information that they want, but they definitely have increased information. I'm always open for feedback, and so is my team. We want to be good partners to our municipalities.

[00:07:20] Crystal Fincher: Now, there's always a lot of headlines in the news about public safety - hearing crime is a problem. More recently, seeing a lot of news that crime actually trended down last year. Is that reflected in what you're seeing in the work that you're doing? What trends are you seeing, both positive and negative?

[00:07:41] Leesa Manion: We are seeing that crime is generally trending downward. It was at kind of an all-time high during some of the years of the pandemic, which was concerning to everyone. Violent crime seems to have plateaued a bit, and same with gun crime. However, the number of juveniles involved in gun crime has been a slight uptick. We have seen an uptick in juvenile crime since the pandemic, but we are not yet at pre-pandemic levels as it relates to juvenile crime. There have been a lot of headlines about juvenile crime, and I think that is in large part because it is alarming when a young person engages in crime. And I think that collectively in our community, we all feel a responsibility to try to have that stop - we believe in rehabilitation, but we also hold accountable young people who commit violent crime or serious crime. And for a county of 2.3 million. where there were times when the juvenile detention numbers were at about 20 [average daily population] - of course, it seems alarming to us when now detention numbers are up at around 50 average daily population. That's just an indication that we are filing more juvenile cases and more juveniles are being held on serious cases than years past.

[00:09:01] Crystal Fincher: Well, and this has been concerning to a lot of people. Certainly we hear some saying - Well, we just need to crack down on juveniles and maybe treat them more seriously, maybe treat them as adults and they really need to experience consequences for their actions. We also have a lot of people and evidence that suggests that the disinvestment in our communities - the lack of a lot of social supports, mental health support, community activities, and supports for kids - make it more likely that they'll wind up in negative or unproductive criminal activity. How do you see this and what can be done on the intervention side, and what are the most effective interventions that you see once someone is introduced into the criminal legal system?

[00:09:48] Leesa Manion: I know I've said this in many forums as well - I'm a "Yes, And" thinker. Yes, I believe in the power of diversion. I really believe that there are a number of juvenile crimes that are appropriate for robust diversion programs where young people get the help they need to get the behavior to stop. In Washington state, there are mandatory juvenile diversions for first-time juvenile misdemeanors. There are some juvenile felony cases - non-violent - that we divert to Restorative Community Pathways. Young people and their families receive services from community-based organizations. And early evaluations indicate that that is working, that there are good outcomes coming from that. It is also true that we have young people who commit serious assaults with firearms, or serious sexual assaults, or other serious assaults without a firearm and we bring accountability in those cases. And often those youth are sent to juvenile rehabilitation upon adjudication of their case where they are entitled to services and they do get programming, so it would be like Echo Glen or Green Hills. And the premise is that young people are still very much moldable - that even if they make a very serious choice, it results in harm, no one is saying turn a blind eye to that - we're saying address it in ways that are appropriate and also make the right investments to ensure that that young person is rehabilitated and doesn't engage in the same type of behavior. All of those things can be true at once. And I say that because I think that sometimes in our community, there is a misunderstanding or a belief that we in the Prosecuting Attorney's Office are diverting gun crimes to diversion. We are not. Or that we are diverting violent crimes. We are not. We just don't have the appropriate programming for that. But for nonviolent crimes, for misdemeanor crimes - absolutely, it's entirely appropriate.

[00:11:55] Crystal Fincher: Now, we have seen some questioning, including by the King County Council - which does have the authority to control the funding for a lot of these programs - questioning the effectiveness of programs like Restorative Community Pathways, wondering if it's better spent on juvenile probation counselors. How do you respond to that?

[00:12:17] Leesa Manion: I think it's so important for us to look at the data. I think it's so important for us to openly share that and to have conversations where all of us are at the table, as opposed to conversations where only a few parties are at the table or where messages get mixed or lost because we're chatting with prosecutors and police and then prosecutors are chatting with community and then community is chatting with police or the council. It would be great if we could all just come together. And same - again, I come back to "Yes, And" - we know that we have young people who are being adjudicated through our juvenile justice system. And there is room to have community-based diversion programs run by community-based nonprofits. And in an ideal world, juvenile probation counselors work with young people who are adjudicated and know how to refer young people into community-based organizations - that there is the right amount of flow and communication on what's best for that young person and their family. And that's really just based in collaboration and partnership. I think sometimes where the hiccup lies - and I'll just be really candid about this - it's about resources. It is no secret that the King County General Fund is facing a large deficit and that we've been facing deficits since 2008. And when you have organizations and people that are doing really good work and we're all competing for funding from the same slice of pie - you can imagine how that unintentionally creates competition or a desire to say that we are the best and we are deserving of more funding, which implies that people who are competing with funding against us, so to speak, are somehow not deserving. I don't think that's anyone's intention, but I think when we are all fighting for scarce resources, it can be an unfortunate, unintended consequence.

[00:14:21] Crystal Fincher: Also wanted to ask about seeing a lot of juveniles, or a disproportionate number of juveniles, in addition to others involved in auto theft and an uptick in auto theft - Kias are notorious for being particularly susceptible to those. What have you been seeing? I know that there's been talk and focus on that. Is that improving at all? What can be done there?

[00:14:45] Leesa Manion: There definitely was a rise and an increase in car theft, not just among juveniles, but also among adult defendants. And part of it is that there are certain vehicle types that are especially easy to steal. And often auto theft is a crime of opportunity. And there are young people who do it for the thrill of it or because it's an opportunistic crime. There are some, usually in the adult realm, some more organized car thief rings. And it's so interesting that you raise this because I've been having a conversation with my internal team and I had a very, I would say, brief introductory conversation with our sheriff just a few weeks ago about gun crime. Years ago, under Norm Maleng's leadership, we built a partnership with law enforcement called Car Theft Initiative, and we actually shared information on the individuals that individual law enforcement agencies believed were behind many of the car thefts. And so the brief conversation with the sheriff was - Would we be able to revitalize that in some way within existing resources? Years ago, when that happened under Norm Maleng's leadership, we got an influx of investment dollars to hire a crime analyst, to do all of the work for all of the various law enforcement agencies, to push information back to the prosecutors. And right now, we're all struggling for resources - and our police agencies in all parts of King County are struggling with vacancy numbers. So it doesn't mean something can't happen, it just means that we're going to have to be very intentional. And I also think very honest with the communities that we serve - that our focus on car theft means that it's going to divert our focus away from something else. And no one likes to hear that, but I think that is the challenge when we have too few resources.

[00:16:46] Crystal Fincher: Well, and that raises another question that I hear in different forms. Because of the number of police departments - kind of police departments across the board - saying that they're struggling with staffing and making tough deployment decisions, a number of those departments have moved more people out of investigative positions or specialized positions into more patrol-focused positions. Has that impacted investigations that are handed over to your office or, I guess, not handed over to your office in the absence of them? What has been the impact of that on your office and on public safety in your view?

[00:17:28] Leesa Manion: I think that when police have too few resources, there are certain hard choices that they have to make - and an area that we have seen some impact is as it relates to human trafficking, sexual exploitation cases, sexual assault cases. I know that the Seattle Police Department, for example, they had to make some hard choices and redeploy some of their sex assault detectives to other crimes. And as a result, we did see the number of sexual assaults, as referred by Seattle Police Department, drop. It's not because I think there are fewer sexual assault cases - I just think they have too few resources. And detectives are working really hard all over King County to investigate those cases. But it takes longer. And so that's just one area. It's also really difficult when police have too few resources to train police in the types of things that are important, like the challenges around investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. And when not every department has a dedicated hate crimes detective or patrol that are trained in hate crime investigation, we see the impact of that. It can also maybe delay the filing of cases because it automatically involves a back-and-forth between our prosecutors and law enforcement to - Well, what was said? What was the racial epithet that was said? You actually have to put that in the charging documents, even if it's offensive. And that type of back-and-forth, while important and necessary, can sometimes slow down the filing of charges. And it's really just resource-based.

[00:19:08] Crystal Fincher: If you were - maybe not giving advice - but providing input to various government entities and the bodies responsible for funding them, like our city and county councils across the county, what would you advise in terms of focus or stressing or even ways to allocate or deploy? Would you say it's more helpful to have more people in detective positions? Would you say that training is necessary, with the interest in - okay, there's an investigation, someone has been wronged, they're seeking justice, and we want the most effective and reliable way to get justice? How do our resources need to be shifted or deployed in order to better achieve that outcome?

[00:19:57] Leesa Manion: I think the most efficient criminal legal system - and the one that serves community and makes room for diversion, restorative justice, accountability, appropriate sentencing - is a well-funded criminal justice system. Now, in King County, one of the challenges is that health and human services, public health, and criminal justice are all funded out of the general fund. In an ideal world, the criminal justice system is working really closely with public health and health and human services because there is so much value in prevention and in investing upstream - so that people don't enter into the criminal justice system simply because they are looking for help. I know that there are challenges with the general fund, and it's really limited to the fact that our property tax is capped at 1%. And that is it's own thorny, challenging issue when you have families saying we can't afford to live in King County and property taxes are too high. Or I'm a senior citizen and I've owned my home for 30 years and I can't afford to pay the property taxes. I don't mean to discount any of those very serious human and dollar impacts on a family. But in law enforcement, judges, public defense, prosecutors, I really think that if we could somehow get on the same page with regard to what our priorities are - how we work together to get cases through the system efficiently without unnecessary continuances, perhaps? How do we focus on the types of processes that will allow people to get into treatment in a way that is really efficient? How can we be more collaborative and less adversarial, which is a big challenge in a criminal justice system that is set up to be adversarial. I think more conversations like that not only benefits the criminal legal system, but it benefits the communities that we serve. And those can be really challenging conversations - they're not always easy to convene. Again, everyone is fighting for funding out of the same pot - and it automatically creates this desire to protect what you have. I think there is a lot of desire to have partnership, but it's just sometimes very challenging too - to change protocol, to change behavior, to change the way cases are set for trial, for example. Or even within my office, we are working really hard to address the last remainder of the court's backlog of filed charges. But also how do we, inside the Prosecuting Attorney's Office, use data to inform the number of cases that we should be filing each week so that we avoid future backlogs? How do we track data to ensure that we're moving cases efficiently and that we are engaging in the negotiation process and holding ourselves accountable? All that change in human behavior can be really challenging, separate and apart from folks' really good intentions.

[00:23:06] Crystal Fincher: Definitely. Now, there was a program that I recently learned about - didn't know it existed before - but that actually seemed pretty promising when it comes to diversion, restoration. And that was a Family Intervention and Restorative Services, which offers youth arrested for family violence incidents space at an overnight respite center instead of secure detention. Can you talk a little bit about that and what results you're seeing from it so far?

[00:23:34] Leesa Manion: I'm a huge fan of FIRS because it helps people and it helps families. So back before we had FIRS, which is a pre-filing juvenile diversion program, families would call - because in the realm of juvenile domestic violence, it's rarely intimate partner violence. It's usually violence within a family - siblings who get into a fight or a young person who gets into a fight with a family member. And what happens is they call police because they're afraid - we have mandatory arrests for age 16 and up in our state, and police used to deliver the young person to the detention facility. And when we contacted families the next day, families were like - Well, I didn't want to prosecute my young person. I just needed them to have an important time out. And it took sometimes a while to file cases, and then it took a while to adjudicate cases, and often families would just say - We're not interested in this. It's not providing us the help we need in a timely fashion, and we don't want our young person to have a record. Only after folks were adjudicated successfully did we then offer services. So we have a Step-Up Program - it's renowned, it has very good outcomes. So we flipped that model on its head. Now when police bring someone to the juvenile detention facility, they go through the respite door where they're met by a social worker. Social worker reaches out to family. And the family - the entire family - is offered services right away because they're going to be family for a long time and they might need tools on how to effectively resolve conflict. Domestic violence in the juvenile realm used to be one of our most disproportionate crimes. Now we divert about 350 cases a year out of the criminal justice system and we're getting better outcomes. So building on that model, I think, is why we're seeing early success in Restorative Community Pathways for the right cases.

[00:25:28] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So we have seen some troubling incidents lately when it comes to violent crime - stabbing at a transit station, attacks on our unhoused community, murders and assaults, number of shootings. What trends are you seeing and what can be done to address them?

[00:25:49] Leesa Manion: As I mentioned earlier, violent crime has plateaued. We saw an overall decrease in crime last year. That being said, violent crime is always concerning because the end result is always so severe - there has been a serious injury or there has been death. And those types of crimes make people feel very unsettled, those types of crimes make people feel very unsafe. And people react to crime. based on what they hear on the news, what they read in the paper - they don't carry around FBI or local crime stats in their head. They don't calm themselves by saying - But overall, crime last year was down, so we're okay. And I also think that violent crime is especially troubling because it can often be so random. And so people feel very much at risk, like there is not anything I can do to protect myself. And all of that together is just disheartening, troubling, alarming, scary - I could go on and on with adjectives. I think the way we have to address violent crime is, of course, we bring necessary accountability. My office files homicides, serious assaults, assaults with firearms every single day. In order to prevent crime, I really think that that is going to have to be a partnership with police, prosecutors, and community. When I think about gun violence - I have been in conversation with our police chiefs and I am especially in conversation with the [King County] Sheriff's Office and Kent PD as a place to start. What does it look like when police and prosecutors work together to share information on the individuals that we know are causing harm in a lot of different communities? And how do we focus our combined resources to address those crimes appropriately? I have said that - Yes, I will prosecute gun crime to interrupt the behavior. That doesn't mean I have to charge the firearm enhancement in all cases - just because I can do something doesn't mean I have to do something. That being said, I know that there is work being done in the Regional Gun Violence Prevention Office in King County, not with cases coming out of the prosecutor's office, but with cases that are being referred by Harborview Medical Center or by some community agencies where they are really trying to work upstream and to provide interventions to keep people - both adults and young people - from becoming victims or perpetrators of gun violence. Our office does not have a role in the work of that office. Am I curious about what that looks like? Absolutely. Am I interested in the outcomes of their work? Absolutely. But working together, sharing information, assuring the community that we serve - that we're working together, that we are taking action, that we're paying attention - those are all things that can help our community feel more safe.

[00:28:53] Crystal Fincher: A number of points in the conversation that we're having and certainly in lots of other conversations - the role of supplementary services, of having social workers, of having resources, having people who can respond in a way that isn't simply punitive, that isn't simply focused on punishment, that is focused on addressing the root cause of the problem and working towards it not happening again - seem to be recurring themes that are helpful in intervening in these problems. I can't help but think about right now the success of many alternative response programs, both across the country and elsewhere in King County. But having challenges with that in the City of Seattle in particular, and a retroactive contract - they still need to negotiate a current contract - that seems to be making that more difficult, if not preventing any kind of alternative or supplemental response at all. Do you have any input into that or advice or recommendations about whether that would be helpful or not?

[00:30:01] Leesa Manion: I don't have any input into what happens in the city of Seattle, but I will say that I think sometimes the challenge can be - how do we communicate about effectiveness? And I think for some folks, effectiveness means a guarantee that there will be no more violence ever. Or that effectiveness means that a person who's going through a restorative process is forever good, however you define that. The truth is, is that we're humans and addressing root causes of behavior is complicated, it's complex. It doesn't mean that we give up. And also where I stand, I think addressing root causes happens on the preventative side - you hope that no one ever enters the criminal justice system or the criminal legal system. But also for the individuals where we file charges and they're held accountable and they go to jail, or they go to JR [juvenile rehabilitation] , or they go to prison - we need services there to also address root causes so that the behavior stops. And I think that it can be really disheartening for our county government funders when they feel like they've made a lot of investments and they're not seeing the types of results that they want. I think it can be very frustrating for our community, who expect that the violence will suddenly stop. And it's just much more complicated than that. And I also think that there is sometimes a lot of confusion about - it's a spectrum. There's definitely work that happens on the front end before folks enter the system, and there is work that happens when folks enter the system. We have to really be able to do a "Yes, And" approach. I think pre-filing diversion is great in the right cases. I think there is post-filing diversion that we should be developing to get people the help they need so that the behavior stops. And then when people go through our system and the only outcome is a prison sentence, they should be getting services behind bars. All of those things can be true. And it's hard with limited resources. It's hard when we don't have the same language or the same ways of describing outcomes. And it's really hard in an adversarial system that is the criminal justice system.

[00:32:17] Crystal Fincher: I do want to ask about victims and survivors. Our system and news usually focuses on perpetrators and what's happening there. Certainly the charge is in the name of your office - the prosecutor's office, doing prosecuting of people there - but we don't do a great job of supporting victims, of helping restore what was lost from victims. Whether it's a violent crime or a property or economic crime - there isn't much focus there, and it seems like we're starved of resources there, but there's so much more that we could do. In your view, what more should we be doing, can we be doing, and how do we get there?

[00:33:00] Leesa Manion: You're right. There aren't enough resources in terms of victim advocacy - not in any prosecutor's office, not in any city attorney's office, not in any of our systems, not in the Department of Corrections. I think that there is a lot that we are doing, but we don't talk about it in the same way. We don't always make it clear and transparent on how victims and survivors access resources. Sometimes there is a pathway to resources, but the service providers are at capacity - so there is a lag in terms of the delivery of services. I also think that, like so many things tied to the criminal legal system and the criminal justice system, is that there is often a binary all-or-nothing approach - that if you are a victim and you have suffered crime, that you want retribution. Sometimes that's the case. Sometimes victims do want a more restorative process. But even when we talk about restorative processes, it's not like there's a universal vision of what that looks like, or sounds like, or means to a community or an individual victim. I think also we tend to believe that sometimes victims are either victims of crime, but never those who perpetrate crime. And the truth is, is that there is fluidity - that today's victim may have been someone who caused harm in a week past, a month past, or a year past. And then I think there are families who have individuals who have been victims of harm and also family members who have perpetuated harm. And so it can be really difficult to figure out how do we best address those situations. And again, this sounds very Pollyanna-ish maybe - but again, addressing root causes - it's like the rising tide that floats all boats. A lot of us have suffered trauma - doesn't mean everyone has gone out and perpetuated harm. But what would it look like if we could address root causes for those who have been victimized and for those who have caused harm, and for those that we are trying so hard to keep out of the system like our young people? If I could wave a magic wand, I would have a lot more social workers. I would have a lot more therapists. I'd have more social workers in schools working alongside teachers and administrators. I'd have every kindergartner be able to go and talk to their therapist for 15 minutes a week just to build the habit of talking about feelings, and talking about what's going on at home, and talking about what's going on on the playground so that we could start to build some resiliency and some skills to deal with those things. That's going way, way upstream. But if I could wave a magic wand, that's the type of world I'd like to build.

[00:35:53] Crystal Fincher: Well, upstream seems like it could use more attention and resources, certainly, so I appreciate you sharing that. As we move to close this conversation, is there anything that's not really being talked about that's not on the public radar that you think is really important to know and address?

[00:36:12] Leesa Manion: Gosh, there are probably a lot of things, but the thing that came to top of mind when you asked that question is just the very serious challenge in addressing human trafficking, particularly as it relates to sexual exploitation. It's very resource intensive. It takes sometimes a lot of intervention to get victims and survivors the help they need. They can be very difficult crimes to investigate and prosecute - that comes to mind. I also, in the early winter of 2023, held a public safety summit on wage theft. And I did that in collaboration with the MLK Labor Coalition. And wage theft - I used to describe it as a silent epidemic that impacted disproportionately migrant workers, women, BIPOC workers. And at that summit, someone stood up and said - With all due respect, we who have been victims of wage theft talk about it all the time. It's not silent to us. That's another area where there are too few resources, difficult crimes to prosecute and investigate. It's not clear to everyone how to investigate those types of cases. And then there is among some, disagreement as to what constitutes wage theft. So that's an area that my Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division are working on. But those are two areas.

[00:37:33] Crystal Fincher: So what should we be doing? Is it more education is needed? Is legislation needed to help clarify and standardize? What can help when it comes to identifying, investigating, and prosecuting wage theft?

[00:37:46] Leesa Manion: Well, I think that's really kind of a multi-pronged approach. First, I do think a public awareness campaign - that this is wage theft, and this is wrong, and it is not okay. I'd like to believe that lots of people know that on kind of an intuitive level, but maybe not. Maybe it's just been going on for so long that it just goes with the industry. I think that we have to build strong relationships with labor and industry and law enforcement in terms of who investigates wage theft, who does the heavy lifting of digging into financial records of a restaurant or construction company to determine that they're paying their workers fairly and they're paying their workers what they owe. That can be very taxing and time consuming and maybe we don't have the right types of tools - maybe we need more forensic CPAs assigned to that type of work. And then we have to talk about what it looks like to prosecute those cases under existing law. And because they are so rarely prosecuted, I can't, where I sit today, say that our statutes are perfect. I don't know if a legislative fix is needed because we just haven't prosecuted one of those cases yet. So to be determined.

[00:39:01] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Well, thank you so much for taking this time to speak with us today, update us on how things are going and what we should be focusing on, and the advice that you've provided for what may be helpful moving forward. Thank you for sharing today.

[00:39:17] Leesa Manion: Thank you so much for having me. And thank you so much for hosting this podcast and for bringing these issues to our community. Thank you.

[00:39:25] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at and in the podcast episode notes.

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