Stories from the ACLU of Washington

Published: 
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
“Dynamic officer” … “A vital team player” …”Exceptional flight nurse” … “Excellent role model” … “Always ready to support the mission.” ACLU of Washington Legal Director Sarah Dunne led off her opening argument with these words from Air Force performance reviews for Major Margaret Witt at different times. Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
After opening statements, Jim Schaffer, current Spokane Fire Department Captain and former 446th unit member, began his testimony. Before retiring from the Air Force in 2006, he and Major Witt served on the same flight crew on a number of missions and were deployed together a number of times. Schaffer spoke about Mjr. Witt’s stellar career and told stories of how her calm, cool, and collected nature, plus with her ability to include all team members, help their team succeed and save lives. He told of a particular occasion where a Dept. of Defense civilian went into cardiac arrest while aboard a plane, and Maj. Witt’s ability to accurately assess the situation made sure that the person survived. Read more
Published: 
Monday, September 13, 2010
Prescription opiate abuse (powerful pain killers) is a serious problem requiring smart policy solutions. Two policies intended to curb abuse of these powerful drugs highlight the right and wrong approach for dealing with the issue. Read more
Published: 
Friday, September 10, 2010
The ACLU of Washington is privileged to have hundreds of dedicated volunteers help us out every year.  Indeed, the ACLU relies on individuals who care passionately about civil liberties and are committed to doing something to make sure the Bill of Rights is more than just a piece of paper.  We couldn’t do our work of defending and extending liberty without their efforts! Volunteers work with the ACLU for many different reasons and in many different ways.  Volunteers help with our public events in the community and provide information at our tables. In our office, they help with mailings, answer phones and greet people at our front desk, and – with special training – answer our legal intake lines.  Without these individuals, the ACLU of WA could not have the reach and scope that it does. Read more
Published: 
Thursday, September 9, 2010
AG Says We Don’t Need Death Penalty: With an execution looming, state Attorney General Rob McKenna weighs in on the death penalty – and you might be surprised what he has to say.  "I could live without it frankly," McKenna tells KIRO Radio. "I think it's very expensive, and the delays are inordinate, delaying closure for the victims' families." New Voice for Marijuana Reform: In a recent op-ed in the Seattle Times, former U.S. Attorney John McKay declares that the U.S. war against marijuana has failed and actually threatens public safety and rests on false medical assumptions.
Published: 
Friday, September 3, 2010
Do you think Arizona, with its “papers please” law, is the only state where law enforcement officials are approaching travelers and asking about their citizenship? Think again. Federal immigration officials are asserting the authority to ask individuals about their citizenship far away from any border crossing or port. And they regularly question people as far as 100 miles away from any border. Nine of the most populous U.S. cities and two-thirds of our nation’s population reside within this “Constitution-free zone.” Read more
Published: 
Friday, September 3, 2010
On September 2, 2010, the Seattle Times ran an op-ed discussing startling details about longstanding racial disparities in Washington’s criminal justice system. The op-ed is written by NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorneys John Payton and Ryan Haygood. Way back in 1980, Washington state “officials asked themselves a hard question about why the state led the nation in the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans.”  Fast forward to 2007 and you can see how the problem still exists. The state’s own Sentencing Guideline Commission reported in 2007 that African Americans were 3% of the state’s population, but “received 14.91% of all felony convictions and were the most over-represented racial group ….” Read more
Published: 
Thursday, September 2, 2010
  With the end of August came the finale of national Hispanic Heritage Month. To celebrate, the Hispanic Business and Professional Association of Spokane sponsored a daylong festival. Amid the music, dancing, and delicious food was an ACLU-WA booth – part of the effort by our activists around the state to speak with people in-person and help them understand their rights. Staffing the booth were students from the ACLU-WA’s Gonzaga University Law School Club, bringing their knowledge about civil liberties into the community.  “The students took the opportunity to inform the Latino community about the ACLU-WA’s work and offer educational resources,” said ACLU-WA Field Director Liezl Tomas Rebugio.  “In particular, they wanted to talk about rights with law enforcement, immigrant rights, and how to protect personal privacy.”  As fall approaches, ACLU-WA student clubs at colleges and universities are gearing up for action. We currently have clubs on campus at Whitman College in Walla Walla, the University of Washington in Seattle, UW in Tacoma, Western Washington U. in Bellingham, and the law schools at Gonzaga, and Seattle University. There’s also a club at Seattle’s Garfield High. Participating in a club is a great way to learn more about – and be an activist for – civil liberties, meet other students, and just plain have fun. Get involved on your campus!  
Published: 
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Gangs present a serious public safety challenge to our communities.  But the approach that our state has instinctively turned to in the past—relying on arresting and jailing those believed to be involved in gangs—fails to get to the root causes of the issue, and likely makes it worse.  To be sure, for Washington cities dealing with violent crime, such as those in the Yakima Valley, meeting this challenge means appropriately punishing violent offenders.  But it is equally critical to find avenues through which individuals can leave gangs and reenter the community.  Simply imprisoning gang members and telling them to leave gangs doesn’t work if there’s nothing else for them to do, and no resources to help them get out. Read more
Published: 
Monday, August 30, 2010
In considering alternatives to arrest and incarceration for reducing substance abuse, it is useful to note that smoking rates continue to decline in Washington state -- and to understand how that decline came about. In 1997, almost 25% of adults were current smokers. By 2009, this number has decreased to less than 15%. In fact, we now have the third lowest smoking rate in the U.S. Well done Washington! What's even more exciting is that we didn't have to arrest, prosecute, or incarcerate any adults for smoking to achieve this result. Read more

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