Thursday, December 30, 2010
In the final days of the year, typically dominated by annual “best of” lists, a simple call by President Obama managed to spurt multiple headlines and ignite a flurry of conversations. In his call to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, President Obama reportedly applauded the team for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance. In 2007 Vick pleaded guilty to charges related to practices of animal cruelty, and served a 19-month sentence in federal prison. The President reportedly told Lurie, “So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance. It's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.” The President’s call emphasized an important reality that more and more political leaders and policymakers are acknowledging: America has a big problem with over-incarceration, and its pernicious effects are not limited to the grim confines inside of jailhouse walls.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
With little public fanfare, other than a couple of newspaper articles and blog posts, two of Washington’s largest jails (Spokane County and King County) have seen significant decreases in inmate populations. This is a big deal, as Spokane County is hoping to build a new jail (they’ll vote on funding for the jail this spring). Similarly, several Puget Sound cities, including Seattle, were considering building their own jail because King County would no longer have bed space. What explains the decreases in inmate populations? Is it sustainable? Can other county jails replicate the trend? Let’s take a closer look. Read more
News Release, Published: 
Monday, November 29, 2010
After 15 years of court-supervised monitoring, the ACLU-WA and Pierce County have agreed to a final settlement in a lawsuit over inhumane conditions at the county jail. The settlement came after county officials adopted policies that, when fully implemented, will ensure that medical care for inmates meets minimum constitutional standards.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Recently, a troubling trend in correctional facilities around the country has shown up in two Washington State jails.  Inmates, already a population isolated from their respective communities, are now being restricted in their communications with their own friends and families.  Spokane County Jail and Yakima County Jail are only allowing their inmates to send out and to receive postcards.  These policies prohibit inmates from sending or receiving letters, pictures, limiting contact with loved ones if it takes more than a few sentences to express themselves.  The same is true for families writing the inmate, restricting their right to freedom of speech. Read more
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
A broken criminal justice system doesn’t just affect felons, it impacts us. In an insightful article in The Pacific Northwest Inlander correspondent Leah Sottile discusses the many challenges individuals with criminal convictions face long after they’ve paid their debts to society. These “collateral consequences” hurt not only ex-felons, but also their children, as when their families cannot get stable and safe housing. A single mother with a non-violent drug conviction over 20 years old notes that she’s “going to have to move into a place that’s dangerous for my children…My children now have to grow up around the same things that influenced me to become a felon.”
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Next Tuesday, Californians will vote on the historic Proposition 19, which would decriminalize adult possession and growing of marijuana for personal use. It would also allow cities and counties to adopt regulations permitting the commercial production and distribution of cannabis to consumers. More importantly, Proposition 19 would represent a huge step forward in ending the civil liberties and civil rights abuses fostered by the War on Drugs, like racist enforcement of drug prohibition. Read more
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Defense attorney Mark Larrañaga visits Bellingham to speak about his experience as an attorney for defendants facing the death penalty. How many people does an execution affect? Prior to hearing Mark Larrañaga’s insights into the vast reaches of the death penalty, I naturally assumed that the defendant, his or her family, the victim(s), and the victim’s family were the principle people affected by the death penalty. I never considered how deeply jurors, attorneys, and their families can be affected. Years after a trial had come to an end, some jurors’ family members are brought to tears just talking about it. These persons are often so affected by the lengthy, emotionally straining process of a death penalty trial that they too often turn to substance abuse to help them cope. “He’s never been the same. He started hitting the bottle pretty hard when the trial ended,” one woman said of her husband’s experience as a juror. Mr. Larrañaga has become so keenly aware of how traumatizing a death penalty trial can be that in many of his cases he has requested that counselors be available to all involved parties after the trial is concluded. Read more
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
As we said in a previous blog post , you might have thought that “debtors' prisons” were extinct. But people are still being locked up all too often in Washington and around the country simply because they can’t pay their court-ordered financial obligations in a criminal case. Read more
Friday, October 1, 2010
The phrase "standing in the gap" comes from the Old Testament. According to the prophet Ezekiel, God said, "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done." Yikes. Read more
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Last week saw the release of two annual federal government reports which highlight the pervasiveness of Marijuana in the U.S. Unfortunately, only one of these reports received attention from U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. Read more