In the last newsletter we asked about the idea of going with an intuitive instead of legislation. Thanks to those who responded with the wisdom that regardless of which vehicle to use, we must build a politically strong coalition for either vehicle to be successful. We will continue to do that and stay connected to the legislation process. And we’d appreciate any further thoughts you have on that topic and how we will be successful in bringing relief to the extreme sentences many people are facing.
Please review the draft legislation we’ve not changed this language in some time. Recently the Sentencing Guidelines Commission has put a committee together to study the option for second chance legislation. Jon Zulauf the criminal defense attorney working with us has been invited on that committee and he has shared this version of the legislation. This group has met once and will be meeting again in a couple of weeks, we’ll provide updates as we get them on any progress made there. This group may not have the same foundation that everyone regardless of sentence or crime should have a chance to be re-evaluated. As a matter of fact there is already push back on anyone with sentences of Aggravated First Degree Murder. That is why the strength of our coalition is so important. With a politically strong coalition we can exercise our power to ensure that any recommendations that may come out of this committee will have a positive impact on all incarcerated people who have been incarcerated at least 15 years regardless of originating charges.
In regards to the legislation, here are a couple of questions for you
- Do you have some language for the accountability of the board? We want to ensure there is an audit process for the decisions made by the board. Any suggestions on how to add this? This is a way to hold the board accountable so it is less likely to make racially biased decisions.
- What about re-integration services? Do these issues belong in the legislation itself?
- What about the possibility of deportation after release? Do we need to add language around this?
- Any other issues you see that may impact specific communities differently?
Our efforts right now are focused around bringing more organizations and greater representation of communities of color into the coalition. We are looking for opportunities to speak with other organizations so if you are aware of any that you’ve not yet let us know please do. We need to grow this coalition and at the same time educate the general public around the inhumanity, injustice and inefficiencies of the current system. Our true focus and determination is creating a review process that is accountable and just. For any person who is reviewed and denied, clearly documented reasons are available as to why and what could be done to get a positive result next time around.
Not only do we have to actively discuss how race impacts decisions by the reviewing body, we also have to talk about how the originating crime impacts these decisions. The stereotype of ‘violent crimes’ needs to be shattered. Those of us who are connected to people who have aggravated first-degree murder or directly have this sentence need to be vocal about accountability and transformation. With so many crimes being identified as violent, in the DOC dataset of all people with 15+ years less than 1% has non-violent charges. That is a very small percentage of the almost 6000 people found in this dataset. Lets have the hard conversations about lives lost, remorse, accountability and change. The review legislation is to bring all people together through a multi-cultural process and being inclusive of all people inside.
I wanted to introduce to you the members of the CFP team. We are a flat organization and meet together as one group every other week on Saturdays with approximately 6 or 7 folks showing up regularly. With the new additions to the team, we’re hopeful that the number of folks able to regularly make meetings will increase. We are looking for options to be able to have a couple of phone numbers established for the coalition so that you could join a meeting similar to what the Village of Hope does. Once we get those logistics sorted, we’ll send out an update with numbers and date/times.
- Loretta Fisher: Intern at ACLU, previous sponsor of BPC
- Katherin Hervey: Seattle Restorative Justice, The Prison Within
- Jani James: concerned citizen
- Al O’Brien: Seattle U associate Prof. , ex-legislator
- Noemie Maxwell: concerned citizen, fix3strikes
- Vanna Sing: FIGHT (Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together)
- Connie Palmersheim: Family member
- Carol Estes: UBB
- Jon Zulauf: Criminal Defense Attorney
- Cindy Anderson, Family member
Since the June 20th event the following people have joined our little team. We are very grateful to have additional members stepping up to help support the work you want us to get done.
- Levert Banks: concerned citizen
- Christina Nguyen: Family member
- Frances Posel: UBB
- Karen Gamble: Family member
- Amber Dickson: FAN intern
- Nikki Wright: Family member
- Janeen Hernandez: Family Member
We are working on an event in the fall in Spokane so that we can mobilize in eastern Washington as well. We’ve been connected to the 3 Tribes in Eastern Washington through one of our inside supporters in Walla Walla. We are also in dialog with an organization of previously incarcerated individuals called IDTT (I did the time) in Spokane to make this event a successful one. If you have any organizations or family over there we would be greatly appreciated introductions. We don’t yet have a date but will have that shortly.
Finally you may have heard we have a contest going for someone to create us a logo. Please make sure you check out our Logo contest page for full details.