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. With the participant’s permission and any desired anonymity, we will then share these stories through radio, video, writing, and/or live speaking events. Reach Julie at [email protected] or 835-5211.

The Smart Justice coalition believes that our County’s current criminal justice system relies too heavily on incarceration, which is the most expensive and least effective means to prevent criminal behavior and to create a safer community. Too many non-violent and low-level offenders are incarcerated, and this practice disproportionately impacts people of color, people with disabilities (cognitive, mental and/or physical), and people who have low incomes. Incarceration of non-violent and low-risk people also unnecessarily disrupts employment, school, housing, medical care, health care coverage and other benefits, as well as family responsibilities.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are proven alternatives to incarceration for non-violent and low-level offenders that can save money, reduce crime, and keep people in their jobs and with their families, while preserving jail beds for high-risk violent offenders who actually pose a danger to our community. We will be urging the County to fully implement these alternatives.