Friends Committee on Washington State
Public Policy

A Quaker Organization

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6 September 2001

Criminal Justice Issues
Since the passage last year of the legislative mandate drafted by FCWPP calling for and funding a comprehensive review of the state's sentencing policies, the state Sentencing Guidelines Commission has been devoting the bulk of its time to this study. As FCWPP registered lobbyist, I have been attending the monthly SGC meetings, as well as taking part in conference call meetings of its juvenile justice group. I also lobbied in Olympia during the opening week of the legislative session and have attended meetings of the steering committee of the King County Bar Association drug task force which has been providing new leadership on the issue of drug sentencing reform. In addition, I sent a letter to every member of the house and senate fiscal committees and criminal justice policy committees successfully urging them to hold the line on further increases in sentences.

The Sentencing Guidelines Commission recommendations to the legislature and the governor are due by December 1 of this year.  Although the SGC hasn't yet determined what those recommendations will be, in this year's legislative session it did endorse a substitute bill drafted by King County prosecutor Norm Maleng eliminating triple scoring for repeat drug offenses, reducing the penalty for some drug offenses by one level, and using the savings for expanded drug treatment both in institutions and in the community. This was a substitute for a bill replacing most imprisonment for drug crimes with treatment similar to the successful California initiative, which FCWPP has endorsed. Maleng's bill, which FCWPP also endorsed as the best we could hope for this session, passed the senate and had enough votes to pass the house, but never came to a vote there because the Republican co-chair of the house appropriations committee, Barry Sehlin, refused to give it a hearing. Throughout the session, we worked closely with one of the key sponsors of the legislation. 

Besides drug sentencing reform, the commission will likely be recommending reforms in the mandatory referral of juveniles to adult court for serious violent crimes, specifically granting the adult court judge discretion to return the case to juvenile court if it would be in the best interests of society and the juvenile. 

In the 2002 legislative session, the SGC's complete recommendations will be out, apparently together with a citizen's initiative to the legislature embodying the essential elements of the California drug treatment initiative. As a result, this will be a very important session for criminal justice legislation, and FCWPP expects to be active in drafting and lobbying for specific reform bills. To effectively do this, it will be important for us to recruit the part-time Quaker lobbyist FCWPP has agreed to seek.

Other Issues

During the 2001 session, FCWPP also gave attention to several other issues. In addition to two drug bill alerts, FCWPP's legislative committee clerk Jonathan Brown coordinated alerts (1) endorsing a state bill embodying the Health Care 2000 single-payer universal health care proposal, (2) urging legislators to budget for continued funding for critical human services and to lift the lid on I-601, (3) opposing cuts in funding for vocation education programs in state prisons, and (4) urging President Bush's new energy secretary to follow through with the Clinton administration's planned shutdown of the Fast Flux Test
Facility at southeastern Washington's Hanford Reservation.

FCWPP also sent letters to legislators urging further safeguards to the open public meetings law by requiring minutes of executive sessions for review by a judge if the legality of the sessions were challenged, as well as supporting reforms in the initiative process. In addition, one member of our executive committee, Terry Thorsos, testified for FCWPP in support of a moratorium and study on the death penalty.

Our future ability to monitor and potentially affect a variety of issues of importance to Friends will be greatly enhanced if we are able to employ a part-time Quaker lobbyist in addition to the work of our legislative committee, my services as a volunteer lobbyist, and those of Deric Young who assisted us on two occasions this year and plans to provide greater help in the coming session. 

- Daniel Clark, September 5, 2001 

Friends Committee on Washington State Public Policy
c/o AFSC, 814 NE 40th St, Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 632-0662 x87

[email protected]