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Criminal Justice Alert: SB 5611 Changing the interest rate on legal financial obligations / SJR 8206 Prison Labor

It has been a wild week in Olympia.  We thank those of you who called your legislators on the three criminal justice bills SB 5339, SB 5611 and HB 1359.  A flurry of last minute calls almost resulted in the passage of SB 5339 related to discharge of sentence and restoration of civil rights, including the right to vote, for offenders who have served all their time in prison and community custody (parole), and are doing all they can to pay their monetary obligations.  Senator Eide’s Legislative Aide said we had a great phone mobilization effort.  


1.         SB 5611  Changing the interest rate on legal financial obligations

The good news is that SB 5611 related to reducing the interest rate on Legal and Financial obligations passed on the floor of the Senate.  However its House counterpart, HB 1359 was not voted on, apparently due to criticism of being soft on crime. 


SB 5611 will reduce the interest rate on monetary obligations included in criminal judgments from the current 12% to 2% points over the T-bill rate, currently about 4.5%. This lessens the demoralizing burden of ex-offender debt, and makes more ex-offender resources available for critical housing, treatment, and family support needs.


The lesson we learned is that we must start calls to Committee members and Leadership steadily next week on SB 5611. Please contact your House Representatives now and urge them to approve a House version of this bill!  We need to target the following Representatives


            Frank Chopp                (43rd)            (360) 786-7920                       

            Lynn Kessler                (24th)            (360) 786-7904                       

            John Lovick                  (44th)            (360) 786-7892                       

            Sam Hunt                    (22nd)            (360) 786-7992                       

            Bill Grant                     (16th)            (360) 786-7828                       

            Sharon Tomiko Santos  (37th)            (360) 786-7944                       


Although the leadership may be in favor of the bill, they need encouragement to be smart on crime and rise up to the challenge of being labeled soft on crime.  Tell them this bill is critical for ex-offender success in the community-meaning less crime and fewer victims–and the reduction of prison and criminal justice costs. 


2.         SJR 8206  Prison Labor

The Senate has also passed SJR 8206 to reinstate Class I prison industries in Washington State. The resolution will be heard in the House Committee for Criminal Justice and Corrections March 24, 2005. Unfortunately as drafted the resolution does not protect inmates from potential abuses.  An amendment has been drafted that we wish the Committee to adopt to allow Class I industries to go forward while protecting the inmates in the program.  The proposed amendment would see to it that contracted prison labor is Voluntary; Compensated; and Safe.  At this point we do not know who will be sponsoring the amendment officially. 


We need people to call and e-mail all committee members to let them know this amendment is important and to urge them to support it. If you are a constituent of theirs be sure to tell them that. Please call AND write each. Do several different ones each day to spread the contacts over several days.


The Committee members are:


            Al O’Brien – Chair           (1st)                                360.786.7928

            Jeannie Darneille            (27th)                             360.786.7974

            Kirk Pearson                  (39th)                          360.786.7816

            John Ahern                     (6th)                           360.786.7962

            Ruth Kagi                       (32nd)                             360.786.7910

            Steve Kirby                     (29th)                         360.786.7996

            Chris Strow                     (10th)                         360.786.7884


Unless your legislators or their staff know you, remember to include your address to indicate you are a constituent.


Please send our lobbyist Roger Kluck or me an email to let me know of any communications you make on these issues, and send me a copy of any emails you send. 


Finally, here is a reflection from Sandy Lake First Nation from the Oji-Cree community in Ontario.


Probably one of the most serious gaps in the system is the different perception of wrongdoing and how to best treat it.  In the non-Indian community, committing a crimes seems to mean that the individual is a bad personand therefore must be punished….  The Indian communities view a wrongdoing as a misbehavior which requires teaching or an illness which requires healing. (emphasis added)



Deric Young

FCWPP Legislative Committee Clerk


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