“Because there are a lot of folks that are products of that system that look just like me and that system has demonstrated inequities, and I personally believe that you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution,” Marcus said. “You can either throw stones at a glass house, or you can come inside a glass house and wash the windows so you can see out and in. That component takes action from those working inside the system and those outside the system to keep pushing to really transform and be transparent. And I believe that that’s really the philosophy that we need to embrace.”
Before joining King County Marcus worked in the nonprofit sector with young people on gang intervention, but he was at first unsure whether the public sector was a good fit.
“I really had some hesitations about working in government because I thought they would tell me what I had to say and not let me give the message the way I felt like I needed to give the message,” Marcus said. “But one of my young people that I work with told me that I don’t have the opportunity to turn that job down because they needed somebody like me that represented them and reflected them to be in a place where they can speak to their issues that they could trust. So he told me that I had to take the job.”
As Manager of Criminal Justice Strategy and Policy, Marcus is focusing on how King County and its partners in the community and the criminal justice system can work upstream to change the conditions and structures that lead to young people coming into contact with the justice system, and be more thoughtful of alternatives to traditional forms of justice and diversion programs.
“I don’t believe they’re bad people; I believe they’re products of environments and situations that land them in situations that allow them to be consumed in this treadmill called the criminal justice system.”
That’s what drives him to push the envelope, to think outside the box and look for ideas that can keep young people from taking the wrong path, or building a system that is restorative and provides an opportunity to get their lives back on track.
“The most rewarding thing about this work is to see somebody change their life around, when I see a young person that has been dealt a certain deck of cards and played those cards to the best of their ability and then rise above that,” Marcus said. “To me, that’s a sign of success. But the ultimate success is for them not to touch our system entirely.”