Coalition Concerned about Racial Profiling Opposes Gang Bill (HB 1126)

Groups Say the Bill Will Railroad Youth from Communities of Color

A coalition of communities and organizations concerned about racial profiling is urging the legislature not to pass HB 1126, the omnibus gang bill. 23 groups have cosigned a letter saying the bill will encourage racial profiling and result in railroading vulnerable youth into the juvenile justice and prison systems.

In a letter sent today to the House Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness Committee, the Stop Racial Profiling Now! Coalition said, “In a state where the education system is failing our students of color AND where youth of color are two or three times more likely than white youth to be placed in a confinement facility, this type of racially charged punitive approach will only railroad our kids into the prison system.”  

The coalition pointed out that the legislation ignores proven methods for preventing youth from joining gangs in favor of a ratcheting up of criminal penalties. HB 1126 allows civil orders—known as injunctions—to be issued against people law enforcement labels gang members. This labeling does not require that the person has actually been convicted of a crime. And a youth arrested and charged with violating the injunction would serve mandatory time in prison or juvenile detention, where they would meet hardened criminals.

Not only would it dismantle families and communities, the proposed bill would also increase the financial burden on the state: court fees are not cheap and costs will increase beyond the initial cost due to incarceration, recidivism, increased reliance on public services, and decreased community stability.

The Stop Racial Profiling Coalition urged Attorney General Rob McKenna and the legislature to focus on efforts promote prevention, not profiling. It provided 10 recommendations for a more effective approach that would actually make an impact on kids not joining gangs.

The following groups cosigned the letter:

Aliansa Student Coalition
Asian Counseling & Referral Service
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of King County
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Pierce County
Asia Pacific Cultural Center
Children's Alliance
Community to Community
Filipino Community of Seattle
First Place School
FUSE Washington
Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) - Seattle Chapter
Latino Community Fund
Latino Civil Alliance
Minority Executive Directors Coalition
Mujeres Fuertes
Mujeres of the Northwest
Nonprofit Assistance Center
SEIU Healthcare 775NW
SEIU Local 925
Social Work Immigration Alliance
Statewide Poverty Action Network
Washington Community Action Network