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Smart Justice Spokane calls for investigation in jail deaths

Wednesday, Nov 4, 2015 | 4:16pm | Comment on this

Smart Justice Spokane has sent a letter about the five in-custody deaths of Peter O’Brien, John Everitt, Lorenzo Haynes, Scott Stevens, and Tammy Sue Hienen that have occurred this year. The letter, to the Spokane Board of County Commissioners, Spokane Regional Law & Justice Council, and Acting Criminal Justice Administrator Dr. Jacqueline van Wormer, expresses “We believe that the jail should be a place where everyone is safe and receives appropriate health care, including a health assessment at booking.”

Smart Justice Spokane requests investigation and transparency and concludes “We also request that Spokane County and the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council respond to the findings, advise the community of its plan to make the jail safer, and describe how the efforts will be evaluated.”

Click here to read or download a pdf of the letter.

Smart Justice Spokane Updates — Smart Hiring and community member voices!

Thursday, May 28, 2015 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

Smart Justice Spokane logo with wordsBy Liz Moore

In March, the Board of Spokane County Commissioners added two community members to the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council (SRLJC), a change long advocated by Smart Justice Spokane to bring the voices of those impacted by the system to the decision-making body. Recruitment for these positions will begin soon — if you are interested or would like to encourage others to apply, please contact me and I’ll make sure you hear more!

The SRLJC also adopted its mission statement: “to create and sustain a cost-effective regional criminal justice system that builds a healthy and strong community by fostering the best possible outcomes for the community, including reducing recidivism and increasing system collaboration.” Adopted goals include: “Include community members, particularly those who are impacted by the system, in the reform efforts through meaningful participation on the SRLJC and its Subcommittees;” and “Evaluate and address racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system and have a commitment in all departments to achieve racial equity.”

These goals are important commitments to real change coming!

In April, Spokane City Council voted unanimously to support the City’s new hiring policy, which gives applicants with criminal records a fair opportunity to be considered for City employment. The Council asked the City to work with the Human Rights Commission to publicize the new hiring policy across the community, and 2) track city hiring data and report on the policy’s impact.

Congratulations and thanks to all the folks who courageously shared their own powerful real-life stories of the collateral consequences of convictions and incarceration. And thanks to all who emailed, called, and came to show support! As partners in Smart Justice Spokane, we’ve known from the beginning: nothing stops the cycle of crime like a living wage job! Our community works best when everyone in our community can work!


Support Smart Hiring for folks with conviction records!

Thursday, Apr 9, 2015 | 9:09am | Comment on this

Smart Justice SpokaneShow your support: Monday April 13, 6:00 pm at the Spokane City Council Meeting, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd

Share & invite your friends here!

In Smart Justice Spokane, we’ve known from the beginning that nothing stops the cycle of crime like a job! Our community works best when everyone in our community can work!

Please join us at the City Council meeting on Monday April 13 at 6 pm to show your support for the City’s new hiring policy, which gives applicants with criminal records a fair opportunity to be considered for City employment! The City Administration implemented the policy in December, but there was no publicity.

You can show your support by attending or by testifying! Read more »

PJALS Priorities for Action 2014-2015

Friday, Aug 29, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this
Deb Svoboda

PJALS Steering Committee Chair Deb Vangeisen Svoboda

As a collective of activists, PJALS staff, steering committee members, and committee chairs addressed the difficult task of prioritizing efforts when there are seemingly endless injustices being carried out through direct acts and perpetuated through acquiescence and silence.  Prioritizing our work aids us in focusing our “hands, heart, and head” efforts for a period of time for the best possible outcomes, leaving room for rapid response to an ever changing landscape.

As the Steering Committee Chairperson, I’m excited to share with you the three PJALS Priorities for Action 2014-2015. With your support through membership, volunteering, showing up, and lending your voice, PJALS can continue the movement for peace and justice. Read more »

Smart Justice Campaign: Ban the Box Win!

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 | 4:16pm | Comment on this

The Smart Justice Campaign just had a win! On August 4th, Spokane Mayor David Condon publicly asked the Civil Service to remove the box asking about criminal convictions from city employment applications, and that his administration will make changes to the process for conducting criminal background checks. This announcement comes after Council President Ben Stuckart and Spokane City Council Member Jon Snyder led on this issue by sending a letter to the City’s Civil Service Chief Examiner requesting that they ban the box.

Spokesman-Review wrote a great editorial in support making the connection that reducing barriers to employment for people with criminal records part of implementing smart justice.

This announcement is an important first step in creating fairer opportunities for people with criminal convictions to find employment and move forward.  Our thanks and appreciation to Council Member Jon Snyder, Council President Ben Stuckart, and Mayor David Condon. Read more »

Smart Justice: “There’s No Voice Like Your Voice!” PhotoVoice project

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 | 4:16pm | 2 comments

I am excited to tell you that PJALS is teaming up with Smart Justice Spokane and I Did The Time to invite you or other folks who’ve experienced the realities of our criminal justice system to tell your own story ! Will you share your experience with law enforcement, courts, and/or jail by joining our Smart Justice PhotoVoice Project? Or, will you invite someone you know? Please contact us to learn more about this exciting PhotoVoice project at or 838-7870.

Smart Justice Spokane is a broad, diverse coalition of more than 30 organizations, community members, and criminal justice professionals who have come together to reform our expensive, ineffective, and unfair criminal justice system. Instead of warehousing members of our community in jail, who pose no danger to our neighborhoods, we are urging our elected officials to spend our tax dollars on proven programs that are fiscally responsible, reduce crime, and create a strong and healthy community. PJALS is a proud member of Smart Justice Spokane. Read more »

“There’s No Voice Like Your Voice!” Smart Justice PhotoVoice project

Friday, Jul 11, 2014 | 9:09am | One comment.

PJALS is teaming up with Smart Justice Spokane and I Did The Time to invite you or other folks who’ve experienced the realities of our criminal justice system to tell your own story ! Will you share your experience with law enforcement, courts, and/or jail by joining our Smart Justice PhotoVoice Project? Or, will you invite someone you know?

Smart Justice Spokane coalition gatheringSmart Justice Spokane is a broad, diverse coalition of more than 30 organizations, community members, and criminal justice professionals who have come together to reform our expensive, ineffective, and unfair criminal justice system. Instead of warehousing members of our community in jail, who pose no danger to our neighborhoods, we are urging our elected officials to spend our tax dollars on proven programs that are fiscally responsible, reduce crime, and create a strong and healthy community. PJALS is a proud member of Smart Justice Spokane.

Our Smart Justice PhotoVoice Project aims to answer the question: “How does your experience with the criminal justice system show that the system is not working, or how does your experience provide a unique example of how it could be done differently?” The Project is open to folks with direct system experience or their family members. Our PhotoVoice Project is a 5-7 month commitment–come learn more!

“There’s No Voice Like Your Voice”

Come join us to learn more about this exciting PhotoVoice project.

Wednesday July 16, 2014, 6:00 pm

Community Building’s mezzanine conference room, 35 W. Main

Refreshments Provided

 Please RSVP to Liz Moore: or 838-7870

Facilitated by Heather Wallace, Communications Specialist. Project Sponsored by Smart Justice Spokane, PJALS, and I Did the Time. Read more »

Dom Felix: “Impossible to Leave”

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Dom FelixI have truly enjoyed my time as a PJALS Intern. I cannot imagine having done my practicum anywhere else. When other students in my cohort share their experience at their practicum sites I am surprised by stories where students feel as though their work doesn’t matter.  I hear about endless intakes, “Name and date of birth please.” I have never felt like my work at PJALS didn’t matter. Often I felt like I was not the most qualified person for the job, but by working on campaigns that really matter to me I think I was able to be effective.

When I started in the fall the Spokane Police Accountability and Reform Coalition was working feverishly to empower the Office of Police Ombudsman. Sadly a new contract was approved that left Proposition 1 voters wanting more. On a more positive note Spokane has a much better Internal Affairs process in place now. Body cameras that should make excessive force complaints easier to verify have been approved. Some goals were not met, but the system is better now than it was before. I learned that changing policy requires a long attention span. Read more »

Smart Justice Campaign Update: New Law & Justice Council for Spokane

Monday, Jun 2, 2014 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

On May 6, the Spokane County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to create a Law and Justice Council to coordinate a regional criminal justice system. The Spokesman Review article about the vote is here. Both the Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission’s Blueprint for Reform and our Smart Justice Campaign recommended creating a Law and Justice Council, so this is a step forward.

Now, the County Commissioners need to hear from you! This is an important time to thank them and share your support for Smart Justice Campaign recommendations going forward.

The success of the Law and Justice Council is going to ride on the make up of the Law and Justice Council, AND on the engagement of the public in informing the Council’s work with stories and expertise, and holding our elected officials accountable to make sure that the Council’s top priority is implementing smart justice.

Will you take a minute to contact the Spokane County Board of Commissioners? Please thank them for their leadership in creating the Law and Justice Council, and make the following four recommendations: Read more »

Blueprint for Reform calls for “Smart Justice”

Friday, Feb 28, 2014 | 4:16pm | One comment.

Smart Justice Spokaneby 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

Friday, Jan 10, 2014 | 4:16pm | One comment.

Smart Justice Campaign logoThe 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

Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 | 4:16pm | Comment on this

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 »

Education Deform: School-to-Prison Pipeline

Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 | 2:14pm | One comment.

Originally published by Dissident Voice (

by Paul Haeder

As a preface here, as I have done many times as my role as writer for DV, I have to default to the local, as in, where you see fault lines and bright lines in a local situation, you can pretty much make the larger microcosmic statement about many things for a state, region, country, culture, what have you.

The School to Prison Pipeline has been written about many, many times, and my hat goes off to some of those writers:

Read more at Dissident Voice >>

Welcome new intern Dom Felix!

Monday, Nov 25, 2013 | 11:11am | Comment on this

Dom FelixDom 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

Thursday, Nov 21, 2013 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

Smart Justice Campaign logoBy 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

Thursday, Nov 21, 2013 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

Glenn HarrisBy 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

Monday, Nov 4, 2013 | 2:14pm | One comment.

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 

Call for Smart Justice in Spokane

Criminal Justice Commission Hearing 
Wed Nov 6th at 6:00pm 

**Pre-Hearing Training at 4:30pm**
Gonzaga Law School Court Room, 
721 N Cincinnati St, Spokane, 99220

Smart Justice needs you this fall

Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013 | 12:12pm | Comment on this

smart justice logoOur 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 »

August Claims

Friday, Aug 2, 2013 | 3:15pm | Comment on this

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.

– Frederick Douglass,  Letter to an abolitionist associate, 1849

Our Community of Action Going Forward Together

Wednesday, Mar 6, 2013 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

Dove Powerby 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

Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012 | 3:15pm | 2 comments

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

Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012 | 1:13pm | Comment on this

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 –

An Invitation to Share Your Story, for Smart Justice

Thursday, Jun 28, 2012 | 2:14pm | Comment on this

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

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012 | 10:22pm | Comment on this

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 »