Each year, nearly 600,000 individuals are released from correctional institutions. Almost 8,000 are released to the state of Washington from Washington state prisons, (this number does not include releases from federal prisons and county jails). Smart Justice Spokane has endorsed three state bills that will help these individuals have a fair chance at successful reentry and reintegration. Research shows that acquiring a job and stable housing lowers the likelihood that someone will commit another crime. The following bills will help keep our communities safer, promote recovery and prosocial opportunities for the formerly incarcerated, increase the tax base, and decrease dependence on government assistance:
HB 1701; SB 5608: The Fair Chance Act (“Ban the Box”)
This Act will delay questions about criminal history (and background checks) until after an employer has reviewed the applicant’s qualifications. The goal is to allow people with criminal records a fair chance at obtaining employment. Certain positions would be exempt from this policy, such as working with children and vulnerable populations and law enforcement. (Locally, we are also working with Spokane City Council to pass a Smart Hiring Ordinance, similar to the state legislation).
HB 1553: Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity Act (“The CROP bill”)
Many formally incarcerated people are ineligible for employment opportunities, despite being qualified. There are over 90 career paths that may be closed to people reentering society. These occupations range from commercial fishing to substance abuse counselor to barber to telephone solicitor. This bill, if passed, would allow people to demonstrate to a court that they are now law-abiding citizens and have completed or are in compliance with their sentence. If a person can show this, the judge can issue a Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP). Those who obtain a CROP would no longer be automatically disqualified from most occupational licenses.
HB 1390: Legal Financial Obligation Reform
Every person convicted of a felony in Washington receives Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) –fees, fines, costs, and restitution imposed by courts on top of prison sentences. Washington’s system for imposing and collecting LFOs is unfair, burdensome, and counterproductive. It imposes crushing debt at a 12% interest rate that keeps people tied to the criminal justice system, results in some being jailed because they are poor, and hinders people from paying restitution to victims of crime. It does not help to rehabilitate people, nor does it protect public safety. This bill will reform this ineffective system so that it promotes the successful re-entry of people who have committed crimes and enables them to become productive citizens who will pay restitution to victims.
Please contact your legislators and let them know that they need to vote YES on these bills!
Organizations Working on Legislation to Create Statewide Smart Justice
Legal Financial Obligations
Fair Chance Hiring
Mental Illness/Mental Health
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington (NAMI – Washington)