This year, we faced a legislature preoccupied with an enormous budget shortfall, a political climate unfavourable to legislation that might be seen to benefit prisoners, and a short session. Much of our effort focused on salvaging funds for safety net programs for the more marginalized and supporting new revenue sources, with a long-range goal of considering an income tax. With these concerns in mind, we reestablished an economic justice working group, with Steven Aldrich as Clerk. Many Alerts were sent out concerning salvaging funds and acquiring the necessary revenue; basic funding was restored by the legislature.
Efforts in other directions – sentencing reform and drug reform – met with very limited success, as we expected. After the end of the regular session, Carol Estes secured a major grant for a greatly expanded University Behind Bars program – a program that she founded and previously ran on a volunteer basis at the State Reformatory at Monroe. She has accepted the position of Executive Director of the expanded program. We regret Carol’s resignation as our Legislative Advocate of FCWPP, but we thank her for the valuable job she has done for FCWPP over the past three years and wish her well in her new opportunity to serve the cause of criminal justice.
Quaker Lobby Day: February 15, 2010
Our second annual Quaker Lobby Day attracted about 40 Friends, who were able to visit the legislative offices of about fifteen legislative districts. We met at Olympia Friends Meetinghouse for a morning session with speakers arranged by Carol Estes, keynoted by Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, followed by talks on reforming three strikes sentencing, implementing the voting rights law for ex-prisoners, restorative justice, and revenue for safety net programs. After lunch, the group moved to the Capitol campus to meet appointments with their state legislators and legislative assistants.
A more detailed summary of our efforts during the 2010 Session follows:
Economic Justice, including Health Care
- FCWPP sought restored funding for Government Assistance Unemployable (GA-U) and the Basic Health Plan (BHP) as well as maintenance of revenue for education, health care, and services for the most vulnerable. FCWPP followed these issues closely and sent out numerous alerts. Basic funding was restored.
- FCWPP supported suspension of I-960, which would require a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. I-960 was suspended.
- FCWPP advocated for adoption of new funding methods for state programs such as an income tax. Nearly $800 million in miscellaneous taxes and closed loopholes was approved; a tax on intangible property and a constitutional amendment to permit an income tax were introduced but did not get a hearing; conversations with legislators suggest that there is support for an income tax as a long-term goal. Signatures are being sought for an Initiative to establish a tax on higher levels of income, while reducing other taxes and setting up a trust fund for quality education and healthcare. FCWPP expects to support this effort.
1. Sentencing reform to reduce the prison population.
During this session, the legislature as a whole did not seriously consider the following measures that would reduce the number of persons incarcerated, although FCWPP had discussions with individual legislators:
a. Establish a sentencing review board
b. Reduce sentence lengths
c. Expand earned release
d. End the sentence of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles
e. Place all 3-strikers under the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.
f. Reform Three Strikes law
2. Drug Reform
a. Decriminalization of marijuana: FCWPP testified in committee but the bill was defeated 4 to 3 in committee this session.
b. Replacement of the War on Drugs with regulation and a public health model: Again, FCWPP testified but marijuana legalization was defeated 5 to 2 in committee this session.
3. Voting Rights for Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners
a. We are seeking effective implementation of the Voting Rights Restoration law for ex- prisoners that was passed in 2009, by deleting misleading language on the ballot envelope that may dissuade ex-prisoners from registering or voting. A meeting was held with Asst. Director of Elections; there will be follow-up.
b. Effort is underway to file a “Friend of the Court” brief supporting the 9th District Appeals Court ruling that felons cannot be denied the vote while in prison.
4. Restorative Justice.
Efforts are underway to set up pilot programs and to explore this new paradigm with legislators. In particular, following a favorable reception of Paul McCold’s presentation in Port Townsend by the Jefferson County Sheriff and others, a restorative justice training has been held there and a model program is likely to be running within a couple of months.
5. Post-secondary Education for Prisoners.
Although this issue was not considered by the legislature this session, University Behind Bars, as indicated above, received a large grant to expand statewide the higher-education program Carol Estes founded at the Monroe facility. Carol has started work as Executive Director of this new program.
1. We supported increased Transit Funding and the Complete Streets program that accommodates all users. Bills reached the House Rules Committee but did not receive a House vote.
Sam Merrill, Clerk, Legislative Committee