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Congresswoman Gets First Hand Look at DOC’s Parent Sentencing Alternative Program

August 17, 2022

By Robert Johnson Department of Corrections
U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, Reentry Division Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Russell and Program Administrator Susie Leavell before Schrier went on a ride along to see the Parent Sentencing Alternative Program.

U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, left, with Reentry Division Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Russell and Program Administrator Susie Leavell before Schrier went on a ride along to see the Parent Sentencing Alternative Program. (Robert Johnson, DOC Communications Manager)

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U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier has made it her mission to make life better for children.

The representative for Washington’s District 8 in Congress has sponsored or co-sponsored a variety of bills aimed at making kids healthier. Another facet of that is her interest in trying to find ways to keep families together when a parent faces incarceration.

She was thrilled to see one such program in action during a ride along in early June. Schrier wanted to get a firsthand look at the Parent Sentencing Alternative (PSA) Program and spent the day in the field with Corrections Specialist Riveka Crooms.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to observe the alternative sentencing program that Washington state pioneered,” Schrier said. “As a pediatrician, I know that early childhood stress — like losing a parent to incarceration — can have devastating long-term impacts on children’s health and can even put those children at higher risk for incarceration later in life. Meeting parents who qualify for this exclusive program was inspirational. I got to see firsthand parents who can safely complete their sentence at home with intensive supervision by DOC, which also provides the least disruption for children. I’m grateful for all the staff at DOC who monitor, evaluate, and support parents and families as part of the alternative sentencing program.”

Crooms took Schrier and a group of Department of Corrections Reentry Division representatives in the field to check in with three people who are in the Parent Sentencing Alternative Program.

“The focus is always on what’s in this in the best interest of the child,” Crooms said in explaining how people are admitted into the program. “Is there an accountability on the individual’s part as far as their crime? Have they changed? Things like that.”

Program participants are transferred from prison and into the community, where they are assigned a corrections specialist. One such person was Anthony, who lives with his mother and son and is reconnecting with 10-year-old Anthony Jr. This was Anthony’s first week back home, and he was thrilled to discuss the benefits of the PSA program and how he is building a relationship with his son.

Scott Russell was impressed after getting his first look at the program since becoming deputy assistant secretary for the Reentry Division.

“it’s nice to see all the positives from this,” he said. “We don’t do a very good job of bragging about ourselves, either.”

Meeting Anthony confirmed Schrier’s belief that this program should be available nationwide.

“Every stop we make I can see that this is a smart program. It keeps people home with their families,” she said. “This just makes me want to fight for it even more fiercely because we should have this everywhere. “This kind of opportunity to save lives, get people on the right track and, frankly, spend taxpayer dollars in a much smarter way keeps people in homes instead of prison and lets them go back to work and be with their families.”

Schrier said she has written a letter to the Department of Justice requesting a $10 million allocation for similar programs in other states.

“This is a great alternative to putting people in jail. You think about the costs of putting people in jail – the dollar cost, the human cost. If you can find ways to avoid that and you have someone who is not a threat to harm someone this is a better option than incarceration.”