Milestone Met — Lets add another 100!!!

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Nice to see our community steadily growing.  We are now more that 100 public supporters strong.  And the stories that people are posting on the site are great examples of how the excessive sentencing structure we currently have in WA state is not helping the community.  Let’s keep the message strong.

We will be hosting a meeting shortly.  Please say tuned to hear what is next on our agenda to build the political strength needed to ensure parole is brought back to WA State!

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Why no bill this session?

 I understand that WA Coalition for Parole has decided not to drop a bill this session, could you tell us why?  
 
Absolutely, we are happy to share our reasons for the strategic decision to not to run a bill this year.
1) We met with legislative leaders in November and December, and they told us bluntly that there’s no chance of a parole bill passing this year, and actually requested that we not try to run one. 
2) The political reality is that the Democrats are in a very difficult position right now. They control the House by just a thread, and the Republicans already control the Senate. That means the House Dems must worry a lot about holding onto their majority. If they lose it in the next election, they will be powerless for a long time. So they are not going to undertake anything as controversial and politically risky as parole without being absolutely certain that they will succeed.   
3) For us  to succeed in actually getting a bill passed rather than just getting another hearing, we will need to demonstrate to legislative leadership that we can deliver, at bare minimum, 25 committed votes in the House and 50 in the Senate. To get those votes, we must demonstrate that we have significant numbers of well-organized supporters in each of the 49 legislative districts,  and that we have incorporated input from all of the stakeholders. If we haven’t done these things, it tells legislators that they don’t need to take this effort seriously because we’re amateurs and we haven’t done our homework. 
So we decided that rather than wasting energy by rushing into the legislative process unprepared this year, we will wait and come to the Legislature in 2016 fully prepared, with all our homework done, and with the political strength to get the bill passed. We will be working hard in the coming months to lay the groundwork with legislators in their districts, line up ally organizations and individuals, organize prisoners’ families, and increase public support. We will need your help with all of this–in fact we won’t have a chance without you. If there’s one thing legislators care about, it’s what their constituents want. So if you’re up for taking on a homework assignment, let us know at info@wacoalitionforparole.org.
Sincerely,
CFP Management Team

We need more people like you!

We successfully met many new friends and allies at the MLK lobby day in Olympia on January 19, 2015.  Thank you to all who signed up to be supporters.   Our current goals are twofold 1) to have a well rounded understanding of the existing research, and other state legislation so that we can provide input to the bill drafting team on what a model legislation would look like.  We want to have a draft of a potential bill ready for next legislative session.   2) To create a groundswell of support for this reform across all legislative districts!  We currently have 69% of al WA legislative districts represented.  Thank you everyone!

Here is what our teams are up to right now:

Research team is responsible for understanding all aspects of parole in Washington state including the following:

  • Facts and figures of who is actually incarcerated here
  • Impact of parole on recidivism rates
  • Criteria needed to ensure confidence for release
  • Re-entry issues and impacts
  • Personal stories with a 360 degree view of this issue
  • How parole is implemented in other states

Organizing team is responsible for creating a groundswell of grassroots support in every district across the state

  • Create quarterly events to cultivate a community within our support base
  • Establish connections with victim groups who support sentence review
  • Creating FAQs and key messages to be published

We need more people like you.

Please forward this to anyone you think would be interested and ask them to join us!

Thanks so much for your continued support!

IMPORTANT UPDATE & REQUEST

Friends—After much debate and several conversations with our legislator/advisors, we have made the strategic decision to wait until the 2016 legislative session to run a parole bill. Please don’t mistake this decision for a lack of commitment. We are more serious than ever about getting parole legislation passed. But there are a number of good reasons to wait. Most important, parole is a big change to an entrenched multi-billion-dollar system that supplies a livelihood for thousands of influential people. To change it, we need a broad-based, politically powerful coalition of organizations, legislators, and individuals. We simply haven’t had the time to build that yet, though we’ve made an impressive start in just a couple months.
When we go to the legislature in 2016, we want to 1) present a parole bill that is so good it becomes a model for other states; 2) be able to back up every element of our proposal with solid research; and 3) demonstrate broad political support.We need your help!

1) Please if you haven’t already let us add your name to the public list of individual parole supporters.  We need hundreds of individual supporters.

2) Please tell us either your legislative district or your zip code. We need to be able to prove to legislators that their own constituents care about this issue.

To accomplish both of these all we need you to do is fill out our mail list form.

Carol Estes & Cindy Anderson
Washington Coalition for Parole
wacoalitionforparole.org

Clemency vs. Parole by Mari Borrero

Aaron & Mari BorreroI write this in prayer that as you read, you will consider what the criminal justice system in Washington should be doing compared to what is it really accomplishing.  I write from personal experience; my husband, Aaron Borrero, is currently incarcerated. Our journey hasn’t been an easy one but is worth sharing, in hopes of shedding light on an issue that needs to change in this state.

Since we have no parole in Washington State, the Clemency and Pardons Board is the only pressure relief valve for our overcrowded prison system. But the Board has neither the authorization nor the capacity to do this job properly. And that is a major problem, for three reasons.

First, the Clemency and Pardons Board meets only four times per year and is authorized to hear only the most “extraordinary” cases. But the law does not define “extraordinary.” It leaves the interpretation up to the five people the governor appoints to serve on the Board. They can change every year, so prisoners and their families applying for clemency never know what is “really” expected or who will meet these criteria.

Without a legal definition of “extraordinary,” the Board has found a wide variety of reasons to deny petitions: not enough time has passed since the crime, the victims or their family oppose it, the prosecutor opposes it, the petitioner is not remorseful enough, rehabilitation has not be “extraordinary” enough, among other reasons. At the same time, it has recommended clemency for some very un-extraordinary prisoners who have simply provided information to the authorities about another prisoner—a highly questionable measure of rehabilitation that creates big security problems inside the prisons.

Second, and probably the biggest problem, is that the board hears only about 9-15 commutation cases per year.  This is an extremely small number compared with the number of applications the board receives and the 18,000 men and women in Washington prisons. Furthermore, the Board is far more likely to consider an application when the petitioner is represented by an attorney, but that costs the prisoners’ family anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000. Few families can come up with that kind of money.

Third, after the expense, inconvenience, and public embarrassment of a public hearing that is televised statewide, the Board finally makes its decision—but it is not binding!  The final decision still lies in the hands of the governor, the highest profile elected official in the state, politically motivated to avoid controversy and, therefore, to avoid granting commutations.

For a specific example of this broken process, I’ll use the case I know best—the case of my husband, Aaron Borrero. In September of 2009 Aaron successfully demonstrated to the Board that he had strong community support, had paid off all his legal obligations, had post-release employment and housing lined up, had earned college credit, and had the skills to be a productive part of society. Even the victim supported his release. The Board voted unanimously to recommend release. Nevertheless, Governor Chris Gregoire denied Aaron’s release.  Five years later, Aaron filed a second petition, and the new Board agreed to hear his case again. Again, Aaron received a unanimous recommendation for release. This time he was supported by twelve State representatives, including the chair and co-chair of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee, as well as the victim.

Yet the new governor has not acted. So Aaron has been warehoused at the expense of taxpayers since 2009, despite two unanimous recommendations for clemency. He has been considered low risk to reoffend since 2007, is rehabilitated, and is not a threat to society, as the Board has twice determined. What will be achieved by keeping him in prison at taxpayer expense for the remainder of his sentence—two more years?

If you listen to Nicholas Brown, from the governor’s office, in his TEDX talk at Monroe on March 15, 2014 ( Nicholas Brown TEDX talk ) you can see the disconnect.  He addresses who should be able to obtain commutation in Washington.  He details specific criteria that will be reviewed by the current governor. But he does not address the fact that only a tiny number of cases are reviewed annually, or that prisoners from ethnic groups such as Asian Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, or Native Americans are less likely to be reviewed. Nor does he address the major problem with prison overcrowding.

He does state that the people of Washington should demand better. So here I am.

I believe we can together be a voice in reforming the criminal justice system. Building another prison isn’t the answer. We need a better system for getting people out of prison when they no longer need to be there. The Clemency and Pardons Board is not up to the task. We need a system that can handle a large number of applicants safely and fairly, that is effective at determining who is ready for release, and that is nonpolitical and inexpensive for families and for taxpayers.

We need parole.

  • A system of parole will allow the Department of Corrections to release those prisoners who have been reformed and are able to function successfully in society. The parole process will serve as a quality control mechanism by reviewing each person on an individual basis to determine who is ready for release and who should remain incarcerated until areas of concern are properly targeted. This careful evaluation contrasts sharply with our current system, in which people are released when their time is up with no regard to their level of risk to the community.
  • By offering the hope of release, parole motivates people to deal with the areas of their life that brought them to prison. Its sends a positive message—that we believe they can change and once again return to the community. After all, the goal of incarceration is to transform and rehabilitate people, not to warehouse them.
  • Third, parole will save us money. As we release those men and women who are able to transition back to the community as citizens and taxpayers, we free up resources to use in rehabilitating those who need the most help.

DOC won’t oppose Parole legislation

Our lobbying team had a productive dialog with DOC Secretary Bernie Warner and Deputy Secretary Dan Pacholke earlier this week. DOC provided good suggestions on keeping a close eye on the Juvenile legislation that was passed last year and to consider supervision. They advised us that they would not oppose our Parole efforts.

Successful Meeting with Rep. Roger Goodman

The lobbying team had a successful meeting with Rep. Roger Goodman today.  As a strong advocate for sentence reform, he advised us to get a diverse coalition, that represents many points of view including those who are on the fence and potentially even those opposed.  Please look into your networks and let us know if you have connections to anyone who may not immediately support this effort but would be willing to meet with us.  We need to start building bridges!