by Gennette Cordova
Earlier this month, eight mayors in South King County issued an open letter to their King County and Washington State criminal justice partners expressing frustration with crime in their cities. Rather than emphasizing the importance of nurturing and stabilizing their communities through non-carceral alternatives, they leaned into the same punitive solutions that have proven to be ineffective in increasing public safety.
Continue reading OPINION | South King County Mayors Believe Increased Incarceration Is the Path to Public Safety — They’re Wrong.
by Agueda Pacheco Flores
After more than three decades, a law that dramatically impacted families in the state of Washington was repealed. The policy, known as “parent pay,” which required parents to pay for their child’s time in incarceration, came to an end last month with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Continue reading Washington Ends Practice of Parents Paying for Their Child’s Incarceration
by Paul Faruq Kiefer
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted with permission.)
When the only work release facility for women in King County closed last November, it sparked no public outcry — in fact, Washington’s Department of Corrections (DOC) didn’t even announce it was closing. But for women from King County awaiting their transfer from prison to a work release facility, the closure of the Helen B. Ratcliff House in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood presented a new hurdle.
Continue reading Closure of King County’s Only Work Release for Women Raises Gender Equity Questions
by Heidi Sadri
In 2020, a man incarcerated at Monroe Correctional Complex was accused of organizing a hunger strike (a prison organizing tactic with a powerful history) and placed in solitary confinement for a total of 112 days. Not as a punishment, though — 112 days of administrative segregation, nearly four times the 30-day limit allowable under Department of Corrections (DOC) policy. One hundred twelve days is the time it took for the prison to complete its investigation, issue an infraction, and then transfer the man to another prison where he would finally be released from solitary confinement. An investigative report by the Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) found multiple instances in 2020 and 2021 of the Monroe prison holding people in administrative segregation for extended periods of time while they investigated alleged infractions. One man was isolated for 257 days until inquiries by the OCO prompted his release.
Continue reading OPINION: Caging the Caged — Solitary Confinement in Washington State
by Ben Adlin
More than two decades ago, Kimonti Carter was sentenced to 777 years in prison for his role in a devastating 1997 Tacoma drive-by shooting that left a college student dead. Since then, he’s become something of a role model — an example of how education and empathy can build bridges between traumatized groups and direct them toward common action.
From inside prison, Carter built a program within the Black Prisoners’ Caucus that teaches for-credit college courses to incarcerated people. Through an emphasis on shared humanity and empowerment through learning, the project has brought together prisoners of various backgrounds and identities, often shattering racial and ideological boundaries.
Carter is the uniting thread in the 2020 documentary Since I Been Down, which will be available to watch online later this month. The free screenings are being organized by a multifaith coalition initiated by the Blacks and Jews Building Beloved Community initiative, a Seattle-based project built in recent years to strengthen connections within and between Black and Jewish communities. The screenings will lead to a community conversation about criminal justice issues in Washington State, including calls to action around sentencing reform, prisoner reentry, prison debt, and housing justice. The organizers also hope the program will inspire people to get involved during the upcoming state legislative session.
Continue reading Multifaith Coalition Will Kick Off Conversation on Criminal Justice Reform With Documentary Screening
by Elizabeth Turnbull
Close to three decades after Oloth Insyxiengmay was incarcerated as a teenager, he has established himself as a youth advocate, while also fighting against the threat of his own deportation.
On Friday, Sept. 10, Insyxiengmay went in front of the Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board to petition for a pardon of his criminal convictions in order to diminish the risk of an order of deportation. Ultimately, the board voted against recommending that Gov. Jay Inslee pardon Insyxiengmay.
Prior to Friday’s hearing, over 60 individuals wrote letters in support of Insyxiengmay and over 350 people, including members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, joined a Zoom call on Thursday, Sept. 9, to advocate for his pardon.
Continue reading Community Shows Support as Local Activist Petitions for Pardon to Avoid Deportation
by Emma Hogan and Hannah Bolotin
One man currently looking at over a year in solitary confinement as he waits to start mandatory anger management programming writes: “Currently, they aren’t doing anything because no one knows this is going on and those who do don’t care.”
Over 200 individuals currently in solitary confinement in Washington State are being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment due to the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) severe mishandling of COVID-19 adjustments. Incarcerated individuals who receive violent infractions have historically been sent to solitary confinement for a year or less as they complete a required behavioral change class — though the DOC was already moving away from using solitary confinement in recent years as evidence builds that this practice increases future behavioral issues, induces trauma, and catalyzes existing or new mental health issues. However, during the pandemic, this issue has taken on a new level of what is widely considered torture: The DOC has responded to COVID-19 restrictions by keeping the same course completion requirements but cutting class sizes in half, resulting in waitlists for required courses over a year long. And as a result, the majority of these individuals are forced to spend extended periods of time in solitary confinement.
This blatant malpractice was detailed by one of the many individuals experiencing it — a man who is trapped in solitary and is expected to remain on the waitlist for at least 13 more months — in a letter to his mother that she has since circulated in an effort to spread his message.
Continue reading OPINION: Washington’s DOC Is Trapping Incarcerated Men in Solitary Confinement
by Paul Kiefer
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Last Friday, Washington’s Office of Corrections Ombuds (OCO) released the final recommendations from a nearly two-year-long review of the State’s work release program that found an alarming pattern of retaliation and arbitrary discipline by contract staff at work release centers across the state.
Work release centers are housing facilities for people in DOC custody; residents stay for less than a year, transitioning back into normal life by working civilian jobs, visiting family members, and attending counseling sessions.
Since the State legislature created the OCO as the oversight agency for the State Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2018, the office has repeatedly investigated allegations about work release staffers responding to criticism or complaints by returning residents to prison for minor rule violations.
Continue reading Investigation of Work Release Centers Spurs Changes; Advocates Proceed with Caution
by Datyous Mahmoudian
As someone who has experienced incarceration, I see voting rights restoration as a mark of good government. It sent me the message that “I matter” instead of reinforcing the stigma and second-class citizenship that are often experienced when people like me reenter our communities.
The recent passage of House Bill 1078 by our state legislature has cultivated a strong wave of hope and optimism from current and formerly incarcerated communities and their allies in Washington State. This new law will give new opportunity to thousands of politically disenfranchised people who want to make their voices heard by casting a vote for those who create the laws that govern our lives.
Continue reading OPINION: Voting Rights Restoration Bill’s Passage Brings Hope to Our Formerly Incarcerated Communities