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Published on Friday, April 24, 2015

Justice Reinvestment Initiative – where it stands post-sine die

Governor Inslee’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative bills, HB 1885/SB 5755, failed to make it out of the regular session alive. However, the bills have been declared NTIB (necessary to implement the budget), and in his press conference on Thursday, Governor Inslee continues to maintain the initiative is a priority for his administration and is certain it will be very much alive during this special session.

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.

Last year, Governor Inslee signed an executive order creating a bipartisan Justice Reinvestment Task Force. In December the Task Force released a final report. HB 1885/SB 5755 are the products of the report’s recommendations. These companion bills:

  • Create a new felony property offense sentencing grid with reduced standard ranges.
  • Impose 12 months of community custody for a felony property offense when the offender has an offender score of two or more.
  • Require 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.
  • Create a law enforcement grant program administered by the Department of Commerce.
  • Provide a sunset review and termination of the SGC's new duties and the sentencing provisions for property crimes.

The Senate’s budget bill, SB 5077, assumed passage of SB 5755, appropriating $1,372,000 for fiscal year 2016 and $5,946,000 for fiscal year 2017 for implementation of the initiative. However, no funding was included for the law enforcement grants that are called for in the legislation. If it, or its companion, HB 1885, fail to pass in the special session, the appropriation is 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 the legislation after several amendments were made. To read their reasoning, see their position paper. AWC will continue to monitor the Justice Reinvestment Initiative’s progress and keep you informed of any changes.

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