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Blueprint for Reform calls for “Smart Justice”
by Dom Felix
The Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) released its report “Blueprint for Reform” January 10th 2014. Many of the Smart Justice Campaign’s policy recommendations are in the CJC’s report–ideas like moving to an evidence-based criminal justice system, creating a Disproportionate Minority Contact Workgroup to address racial disparities, building culturally appropriate programs and support service for offenders, reforming the system to be offender-centered rather than offence-centered, and delaying the building of a new jail or increasing jail capacity until after alternatives and new practices are implemented and evaluated.
This is a great success for the Smart Justice Campaign. These recommendations have the power to improve our criminal justice system and save money at the same time. Read more »
Criminal Justice Commission’s “landmark” recommendations to require political courage, focus, and public involvement
The Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission’s “Blueprint for Reform” was presented in a private meeting to Spokane Mayor Condon, County Commissioner Mielke and Spokane City Council President Stuckart, on January 10, 2014. The reforms envisioned in the Blueprint will require an unprecedented push for structural and cultural change says the Smart Justice Spokane Campaign.
In the press conference that followed the private meeting, both Mayor Condon and Commissioner Mielke praised the Commission for its work. Smart Justice Spokane Campaign spokesperson Mary Lou Johnson, also states, “We have to express our deep gratitude for the Commission’s landmark report. It’s hard to understate just how enlightened ‘A Blueprint for Reform’ is for improving our criminal justice system and getting the most out of public dollars. But as the Commission itself acknowledges, these reforms can’t occur without large doses of political courage, a longsighted approach, and persisting resolve to ensure the changes actually occur.” Read more »
Action Needed: Sit and Lie Ordinance Vote on December 16
Emails Needed on Sit and Lie Ordinance, Attend City Council Meeting on Monday December 16
Spokane City Councilman Allen, with the support of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, has dropped an expanded “sit and lie” ordinance that will come up for a hearing and vote at the Spokane City Council meeting on Monday, December 16, 6pm.
The Smart Justice Campaign is very concerned that the “sit and lie” ordinance being considered will increase the number of non-violent people in our jail. The proposed ordinance makes it a misdemeanor crime to sit or lie on sidewalks in the downtown core between 6am and 1am, and to sit or lie on any sidewalk fixture (like a planter, bike rack, or drinking fountain) at any time. The ordinance attempts to direct people into homeless shelters instead of jail, but fails to provide resources to shelters for additional space and services, nor does it establish diversion programs to provide treatment and support services for those found to be in violation of the ordinance.
Your help is needed – Please call or email Spokane City Council members (talking points below) and urge them to oppose the Sit and Lie Ordinance, and attend the City Council Hearing on Monday December 16th. Read more »
Welcome new intern Dom Felix!
Dom Felix joined PJALS this year as part of an internship through Eastern Washington University’s Social Work program. Dom has been a long-time resident of the Spokane area who recently chose to pursue higher education in hopes of becoming a chemical dependency counselor. Now as a senior in the program, Dom has come to the decision that working on systemic social change would be a more constructive use of his social work career. This realization lead to Dom choosing PJALS as an internship placement when he became aware of the organization during a lobby day trip to Olympia last year. Read more »
PJALS Members and Smart Justice Supporters Turn Out for CJC Hearing
By Dom Felix, Intern
The Spokane County Commissioners and Mayor Condon appointed a joint City-County Regional Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) in November 2012, charged with recommending reforms to our criminal justice system. The Commission’s final recommendations will provide the “to do list” for City and County elected officials to implement criminal justice reform. Their recommendations were released in a 60 page draft November 1st 2013.
On Nov. 6th the CJC held a hearing to get input from the community. There were nearly 150 community members at the hearing. Read more »
Why Race Matters
By Jeremiah Manes, Intern
On October 22nd, members of PJALS along with others in the community were able to attend a workshop by Glenn Harris titled, “Why Race Matters: Tools and Strategies for Strengthening Community.” This interactive workshop on bias and race allowed for participants to assess their organization and it’s possible contribution to disparity, while fostering conversations on questions such as, “Why does race matter?” Read more »
Your Voice is Needed for Smart Justice: Hearing Wed., Nov. 6
We’re part of the Smart Justice Campaign because PJALS members like you told us alternatives to incarceration and criminal justice reform are worth winning. Now is the time for us to spring into action together!
Your Voice is Needed at November 6th Hearing to
Smart Justice needs you this fall
Our community has a huge opportunity to make major reforms our criminal justice system starting this year. A three-member Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission that was appointed by the Mayor of Spokane and the County Commissioners is in the process of conducting a comprehensive and broad review of the criminal justice system that is in the process of conducting a comprehensive and broad review of the criminal justice system. Read more »
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. … If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, … want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. …. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.
Our Community of Action Going Forward Together
by Liz Moore, PJALS Director
What I love most about PJALS is being part of a community of people who take action together based on the connections between human rights, economic justice, & peace.
Our Steering Committee asked you, PJALS members, to guide strategic planning for 2013-2014. We learned that you overwhelmingly support organizing to raise revenue & reject cuts as well as to counter the costs of militarism and to demand money for people, not for war. You’re also passionate about alternatives to incarceration & police accountability. You value that we create community together through our events & campaigns. You strongly support our Young Activist Leaders Program & our interns. You love our Action Conference. You want PJALS to continue to strengthen our connections with communities of color & with rural people.
Why prioritize those areas? Read more »
17-year-old sentenced to life in prison needs support
Please support the release of Yvette Louisell (0805144), who was sentenced as a 17-year-old college student to life without parole. Yvette has been incarcerated now for 24 years. Take a moment to write a short letter to: Judge Michael Moon, Story County District Court, 1315 South B Avenue, Nevada, IA 50201
Since the June Supreme Court decision to strike down laws of Life Without Parole for Juveniles, the Iowa Governor Terry Branstad converted each of the individual cases in Iowa to 60 years. Her case is now in the courts. Read more »
Smart Justice Gains Momentum
The movement towards a smarter criminal justice system in Spokane is gaining momentum and has some worthy accomplishments to report! The Smart Justice Campaign coalition, convened by Greater Spokane Progress and endorsed by PJALS, the Center for Justice, and many other groups, co-sponsored the Smart Justice Symposium in November. About 200 elected officials, judges, police officers, attorneys, probation officers, ex-offenders, and concerned citizens gathered as experts and stakeholders discussed proven alternatives to jail that reduce crime, save taxpayer dollars and produce better outcomes for people re-entering the community. At the end of the day, anonymous polling revealed that a vast majority of the audience supported reallocating resources to support the programs discussed. Police Chief Straub helped closed the event by promising to work collaboratively with the public to heal, change and move forward towards a better Spokane.
For the coalition, part of making Spokane better is eliminating the grim fact that our criminal justice system disproportionately impacts people of color, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes. To educate and promote a dialogue surrounding this issue, the Campaign hosted the opening night of “The House I Live In,” a powerful documentary that links these disparities with drug war policies. After the film, Reverend Happy Watkins led an honest, but hopeful, discussion about institutional racism in Spokane and what we can do to address it.
The coalition has actively sought input from experts, criminal justice stakeholders, and the people most impacted by the system in order to create recommendations for change. At the core of these policy recommendations is the request that the city and county make all future policy decisions regarding criminal justice through a Smart Justice Lens – This means focusing on the person, not the crime, matching individuals with appropriate alternatives to incarceration that reduce recidivism and reduce costs, and monitoring such programs to ensure effectiveness. In addition, this lens includes paying particular attention to racial, economic, and other disparities within the system. The coalition hopes to share its recommendations with the three-member Regional Criminal Justice Commission recently appointed by the city and county to examine possible reforms.
While we have successfully gotten “Smart Justice” into Spokane’s vocabulary, it is time to push for commitment, a reallocation of resources, and implementation. To reach these next goals, we will need more participation and engagement from people like you. To find out how to get involved and for more information on Smart Justice alternatives, contact PJALS or go to the Smart Justice website – www.smartjusticespokane.org.
An Invitation to Share Your Story, for Smart Justice
A diverse coalition including PJALS, Greater Spokane Progress, and the Center for Justice is about to launch a Smart Justice Campaign to persuade the County to fully implement comprehensive alternatives to incarceration for non-violent and low-level offenders.
We need to humanize this issue, so community members and elected officials will understand how the current system affects individuals and families. Julie Schaffer, an attorney at the Center for Justice, is inviting people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system to please contact her and share their stories. Read more »
Jobs, Not Jails, for Spokane County
Nationally, communities use rehabilitative programs for people in the criminal justice system 70% of the time and jail only 30% of the time. In Spokane County, it is just the opposite – we incarcerate 70% of the people and provide alternative programs to only 30%. Alternatives to incarceration can save taxpayer funds, create safer neighborhoods and end the cycle of revolving door jail sentences. Jail is far more expensive and less effective than alternative programs. So in order to create safer communities at an affordable price we need to shift away from outdated systems. Read more »