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Published on Friday, February 13, 2015

Justice Reinvestment Initiative bill addressed in work session

Governor Inslee’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative was the subject of a work session, Thursday, February 12, in the House Appropriations Committee. Marshall Clement, Director of State Initiatives from the Council of State Government Justice Center (CSG), was on hand for the presentation.

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. The CSG, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the BJA, provided on-the-ground technical assistance to the task force.

In December the task force released its final report. Among its many findings it reported Washington as having the highest reported property crime rate in the country, but also the only state in the nation where supervision is not available as a sentence for most people convicted of property offenses. This is despite evidence that shows the positive impacts supervision can have on reducing the likelihood of reoffending. The full report and the task force’s recommendations can be found here.

Out of this task force came the drafting of HB 1885/SB 5755. Sponsored by Representative Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick) and Senator James Hargrove (R-Hoquiam). 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;
  • Create the Washington Justice Commission (WJC) to assume the duties of the Sentencing Guidelines Commission and administer grant programs;
  • Appropriate monies to the Department of Corrections to fund community supervision of property offenders, community violator bed impacts, and mental health and cognitive behavior treatment and services; and for law enforcement property crime reduction grants, county pretrial improvement grants, new victim compensation benefits for victims of property crimes, victim notification programs in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties; and
  • Provide a sunset review and termination of the WJC and the sentencing provisions for property crimes.

HB 1885 had a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee on February 11 and is scheduled for executive session in that same committee on February 20. SB 5755 is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Law & Justice Committee on February 16 at 1:30 pm.

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