Thursday, June 11, 2015

The wrong way to address prison overcrowding and much more fiscally responsible investment in the people of WA

As an active participant in Friends Committee on WA Public Policy, I do not believe that contracting with the GEO Group to send WA prisoners out of state far from family and the support network they will need upon release is an appropriate way to deal with overcrowding in WA prisons.

The GEO group currently operates the NW Detention Center in Tacoma for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The Tacoma facility has accumulated a long list of civil, human, and labor rights complaints right under the noses of WA taxpayers. How much worse will problems be 2000 miles away from local observers’ capacity to monitor?

Instead of pouring WA taxpayers’ dollars into the pocket of a for-profit firm with incentive to continue incarcerating people, I urge policymakers to ease current overcrowding in WA prisons, cut recidivism and reduce future growth in the number of Washingtonians behind bars. I urge the legislature and WA policymakers to:

--Expand juvenile restorative justice programs.

--Fund increased mental health services to help people address substance abuse and other issues while cutting back on entanglement with the criminal justice system. I believe these services are vital. The legislature should add revenue and should be funded from the operating budget and also support giving local jurisdictions the option of a .1 % sales tax to help fund these services.

--Enact this year’s property crimes bill to intervene early, cut the losses, and get people back on the road to life as productive citizens instead of serving longer prison sentences for property crimes than the average for many other states.

--Restore inmate access to and funding for study at WA state universities and community college to help them return to society

--Restore parole so offenders have goals to work for and so WA taxpayers are not asked to fund incarceration long past when most offenders pose any further risk to society.

The WA state legislature can act on several of these recommendations yet in this session. It’s time to invest WA taxpayer dollars in WA residents, not just in prisons for profit.

Please share. We need a conversation about this!

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