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Published on Friday, April 10, 2015

Justice Reinvestment Initiative bills dead, but could see resurgence

Governor Inslee’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative bills, HB 1885/SB 5755 have died, failing to make the fiscal cut-off Wednesday, April 9. However, many assume the Initiative will be necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) and will be a part of the end-game in Olympia.

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in 2010, seeks to use a data-driven approach to improve public safety, examine corrections and related criminal justice spending, and reinvest savings in strategies that can hold offenders accountable, decrease crime, and strengthen neighborhoods around the nation.

In June 2014, Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order creating a bipartisan Justice Reinvestment Task Force. Over the course of the summer and fall the task force met to analyze current criminal justice trends in Washington and examined ways to reduce crime and recidivism, effectively leverage public safety dollars and increase public safety in our communities. In December the Task Force released its final report. From those findings and recommendations the Legislature introduced HB 1885/SB 5755. These companion bills:

  • Created a new felony property offense sentencing grid with reduced standard ranges.
  • Imposed 12 months of community custody for a felony property offense when the offender has an offender score of two or more.
  • Required the Sentencing Guidelines Commission (SGC) to monitor and report to the Governor and the Legislature on the effectiveness of this act in reducing property crimes in Washington and prepare a racial and ethnic impact analyses.
  • Created a law enforcement grant program administered by the Department of Commerce.
  • Provided a sunset review and termination of the SGC's new duties and the sentencing provisions for property crimes.

HB 1885 died early on, while SB 5755 died on April 8 in the House Public Safety Committee. However, as noted, it is presumed these bills are NTIB. If so, they could be revived at any time.

The Senate’s budget bill, SB 5077, also assumed passage of SB 5755 and appropriated $1,372,000 for fiscal year 2016 and $5,946,000 for fiscal year 2017 for the implementation of the Initiative. If SB 5755 fails to pass, the appropriations are null and void.

AWC has not taken a position on the bills, but the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs has come out opposed to SB 5755 after several amendments were made. To read their reasoning see their position paper here. AWC will continue to monitor the Justice Reinvestment Initiative’s progress and keep you informed or any changes.

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