Cuts in juvenile parole left teen in 'Tuba Man' case unsupervised

Jun 30, 2011

One of the three teens convicted of killing a popular Seattle street musician in 2008 continues to make headlines for his tangles with the law. Billy Chambers – who's now an adult – was most recently locked up for hit-and-run. It turns out he did not qualify for supervision by a juvenile parole officer because of state budget cuts.

Ed McMichael – aka "Tuba Man" – was a fixture outside Seattle's sports venues. He died in 2008 following a brutal attack by a group of teens.

Ultimately Chambers and two others pleaded guilty in the case. Chambers served one year behind bars.

Since then court records show he's racked up two theft convictions and faces multiple traffic offenses. Now he's accused of ramming his car into a woman who'd reported him to the police.

Parole policy

Prior to 2009, all kids coming out of Washington state lock-ups were placed on parole. But by the time Billy Chambers got out in 2010, budget cuts had forced an end to that practice.

Now only those juvenile offenders who score in the top 25-percent of a risk assessment qualify for parole – along with sex offenders and auto thieves.

Billy Chambers – even with a manslaughter conviction – did not make the cut.

"It's pretty stunning to me to think that someone like that would not get parole coming out," said Elinor Cromwell, a juvenile public defender in King County.

Her job is to try to minimize the restrictions placed on her clients. But she thinks state cuts to juvenile parole have gone too far.

"It's really risky to put them out into the community without parole, some way to help them acclimate to the outside world using the skills that they've learned inside because it's a very different environment," she said.

Lawmakers relied on study

However, when Washington state lawmakers decided to cut funding for juvenile parole they were looking at studies by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Those studies found that in the case of lower risk juveniles, parole does not seem to reduce the chances they’ll reoffend.

In lieu of parole, Washington's Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration has stepped up efforts to develop transition plans for youth offenders getting ready to leave a juvenile lock up.

On the Web:

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network