Right now, County Prosecutor Larry Haskell, Commissioner Al French, and a few other politicians are proposing to dissolve the 23-member Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council (SRLJC) and to replace it with a smaller Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee of 13 positions, currently all held by white men. This eliminates four community member seats as well as many elected and agency representatives.
The proposal also eliminates all committees including the Racial Equity Committee, replacing it with a Community Participation Committee that is both smaller and that waters down the voices of community members disproportionately impacted by our criminal justice system.
This proposal seeks to consolidate power in the hands of just a few. It insulates white officials from people of color. It reduces communication among those who are directly responsible. It diminishes the voice of the community at large, and it especially muffles the voices of communities of color who continue to suffer unfairly.
We need everyday people to make their voices heard! Click here to send your message to Spokane County Commissioners French, Kerns, and Kuney, the rest of the current SRLJC members, and city council members of Spokane Valley and the City of Spokane. The key decision makers are the County Commissioners, but it matters to make our voices heard to everyone listed because it affects our entire county and we want them to oppose the proposal.
Spokane – A recent poll from Change Research shows Spokane County voters strongly prefer investing in social services and treatment instead of a proposed 1,200-bed jail.
The poll, which was conducted in December on behalf of the Smart Justice Spokane coalition, found that 58% of respondents support increasing the sales tax by 0.2% to fund solutions like affordable housing, mental health and substance use treatment, job training and after school programs to reduce the jail population. In contrast, only 40% support increasing the sales tax by the same amount to fund a new 1,200 bed jail.
“This poll shows that a big new jail is dead on arrival with voters in Spokane, and that the Spokane County Commission should invest in alternatives to jail instead,” said Jim Dawson, the Spokane-based Program Director at Fuse Washington and a member of Smart Justice Spokane.
“What people need to turn their lives around is access to safe housing, treatment, and job training. Everyone deserves these basic human dignities and it’s the way we can reduce crime and address the racial disparities in our criminal justice system. It worked for me and the people we serve at Revive,” said Kurtis Robinson, Executive Director, Of I Did the Time and Revive Center for Returning Citizens, a peer based reentry service provider for formerly incarcerated community members, and a member of the Smart Justice Spokane Executive Committee.
SPOKANE – Smart Justice Spokane Coalition is extremely concerned about racial inequities in the recent jail releases during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Spokane County/City officials have failed to take action to address systemic racism in the justice system leaving African Americans, Indigenous, Latinx, and non-English speakers behind as they are rapidly reducing the population of the jail. We agree that time is of the essence however we must include people of color,” said Curtis Hampton, co-chair of the Executive Committee of Smart Justice Spokane and member of Spokane Community Against Racism and the Racial Equity Committee of the Spokane Regional Law & Justice Council. “Smart Justice Spokane demands that racial inequities be addressed immediately.”
Public health officials have repeatedly warned that the only way to flatten the curve and to save countless lives is to immediately release incarcerated people, most of whom are awaiting trial and presumed innocent. Several are serving sentences for petty and other low-level offenses. Many have pre-existing medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to the virus, while others are elderly and frail. Today, each of them is facing the possibility of a death sentence.
A letter from Smart Justice Spokane called for nine immediate actions to ensure racial equity in jail release decisions as public health protection during this crisis. The full letter is here.
Smart Justice Spokane, ACLU Washington, Columbia Legal Services, Disability Rights WA, The Bail Project and others sent a formal request to Spokane City Officials requesting the following:
Immediate Releases are Necessary to Prevent Uncontrollable Outbreak at SCJ
- Release without bond any individual being held on a low bond;
- Release without bond any individual over the age of 60 years, and anyone with a serious medical condition (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or immunocompromised)
- Enact an immediate prohibition on arresting or jailing individuals for failure to appear (FTA), legal financial obligations (LFO), or contempt of court matters;
- Enact an immediate prohibition on the imposition of bail for any but the most serious violent felonies;
- Immediately quash all warrants in all cases but the most serious violent felonies; and
- Prohibit jailing on drug charges or other low-level offenses.
By Robert E. Rubin
Published in The New York Times on June 3, 2016
“For our economy to succeed, we need to equip every American to be effective in the national work force. But the more than 600,000 people who leave prison every year are not getting the support they need. That fails them and fails the economy for all of us.”
Read More: The Smart Way to Help Ex-Convicts, and Society
By Greg Berman and Julian Alder
Published on The Crime Report on May 24, 2016
“Experience teaches us that reforming the justice system is both an art and a science. If we are to do this right, we need to be nerds. We need to be clear thinkers who look at data and consult the latest social science and statistical techniques. … And we need to be patient: It took us years to get into this mess, and we should expect that it will take us years to get out of it.
But we are optimistic that by marrying good ideas to careful implementation, it is possible to change the culture of local justice systems, and help them become fairer, more effective, and more humane.”
Read More: Art, Science and the Challenge of Justice Reform
By Kip Hill
Published in The Spokesman Review on April 13, 2016
“Spokane County’s efforts to reduce overcrowding and racial disparities at its aging jail have earned an additional investment of $1.75 million from the MacArthur Foundation.
Jacqueline van Wormer, the county’s criminal justice administrator, announced the decision Wednesday afternoon.
‘I think we can spend the day sort of celebrating,’ van Wormer said in an interview before the meeting. ‘But then the really hard work begins.’”
Read More: Spokane County Jail receives an additional $1.75 million from MacArthur Foundation to reduce overcrowding
Published on safetyandjusticechallenge.org on April 13, 2016
“20 DIVERSE COMMUNITIES RECEIVE MACARTHUR SUPPORT TO REDUCE JAIL POPULATIONS, IMPROVE LOCAL JUSTICE SYSTEMS, AND MODEL REFORMS FOR THE NATION
Chicago, IL, April 13, 2016 – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced nearly $25 million in support for ambitious plans to create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country. The Foundation is awarding 11 jurisdictions grants between $1.5M and $3.5M over two years to reduce their jail populations and address racial and ethnic disparities in their justice systems. An additional nine jurisdictions will be given $150,000 grants to continue their reform work and to participate in a growing, collaborative network of cities, counties, and states driving local justice reform.”
Read More: Spokane receives MacArthur Foundation Safety + Challenge Grant