Mariam Hassan was 15 when she was booked for misdemeanor theft and ended up in front of a King County judge. Instead of jail time, a court order placed her in the 180 Program.
Founded in 2011, it sends youths charged with misdemeanors to workshops, where former inmates share their own experiences in the justice system, offering perspective on how and why kids should avoid entanglement with the law. The compassionate and understanding approach also includes time for the kids to self-reflect and have group discussions.
Hassan’s postworkshop mentor, 180 Program executive director Dominique Wheeler-Davis, spent time in prison for dealing drugs. Hassan says Wheeler-Davis has been there for her at every step in the years following the workshop. “I kind of went through bumps,” says Hassan. She recounts an instance when she was arrested again for shoplifting and called Dominique from the juvenile detention center. “He came just like that,” she says. Where parole officers ensure offenders are following court orders, 180 Program mentors provide empathetic support to help keep the kids on track even when they slip up.
Hassan, now 18, works at a restaurant and is finishing up her GED, with her eyes set on an internship at Microsoft. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t go through that program,” says Hassan. “Sometimes people need a second chance.”