Letter from the CLO and BPC (Monroe)

The Concerned Lifers Organization and the Black Prisoners Caucus (Monroe) support moving forward with this legislation and would make the following requests of our advocates: 

  •  We ask that those not included in this legislation not be forgotten and that all advocates commit to this cause and clearly state that they will continue to advocate until we     have review for everyone. 
  • We ask that the coalition continue to fight for amendments to the bill that would expand review eligibility, specifically to emerging adults. 
  • We ask that provisions be put in the bill to continue to study the issues around review and language be adopted that leaves the door open for expanding the review process. 

ToAll the advocates fighting for a comprehensive parole process in Washington State

FromThe Concerned Lifers Organization and The Black Prisoners Caucus (Monroe)

Hello and thank you for your commitment and courage on this issue. 

We obviously are discouraged by the fact that this bill cut out some prisoners. We have had numerous discussions in the last couple of days, and it is the consensus of all (most vocally from those who have aggravated murder convictions) that we must support this bill. To oppose something that would impact so many when we have made so much progress would be inconsistent with our principals.

We would like the coalition to make clear that this fight is not over and that everyone will continue to advocate for this issue until we have legislation that addresses everyone. This means that people on the outside continue to work even after their loved ones have received relief, and the folks on the inside who get out as a result of the work done become advocates for those left behind.

We think it should be noted that many of those who have worked the hardest on this legislation from the inside are the ones who are saying that they are willing to set aside their own needs for relief to support this bill. This should not be forgotten. 

We would like to continue to find ways to amend this bill and would make the following suggestions:

  • As the bill addresses the issue of juveniles we still think that there is a possibility (although maybe slim) to get the language from Rep. Frame’s draft amended into this legislation. We ask that you advocate for language in the bill that raises the age for the juvenile review process to those convicted under the age of 25. (See Rep. Frame’s bill draft H 1457.1/19) 
  • This wouldn’t address everyone but it would be a step in the right direction. 

We would like to immediately develop a strategy for getting a comprehensive geriatric bill passed. A couple of ideas:  

  • As this bill has provisions for review after 60, add language to this bill to create a study of those released through this process as a precursor to expanding this provision to include all.
  • Put out information from DRW and others to make clear to support groups that this bill may be a step in the right direction but it does not solve the tremendous challenges facing WA as the prison population ages.  
  • Put in amended language to create a study to look at WA aging prison population and develop solutions.

We would like to point out that this bill has some great points and we as a group are excited to have made the progress we have. We also think that this bill opens up the possibility to look at other issues that we may be able to explore to get relief for everyone. (New study on racial disproportionality in Ag. Murder?)

We also want to thank you all for your work in this field and we hope you will continue to stand with us on these critical issues as we work for comprehensive sentence reform in WA state. 

The CLO and BPC 

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128

Next hearing on Feb 28 for 5819

Here is some Information on process that may be helpful:

A HEARING on the substitute 5819 will take place in the Senate Ways & Means Committee at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday in hearing room 4, Cherberg Blg. Public testimony is allowed, but this committee deals only with budget and cost issues, so any testimony must be about that. You should be able to watch it live on TVW (tvw.org) or later in the TVW archives–though lots of people seem to have trouble with their internet service. 

THEN WHAT?  After the Thursday hearing, the bill will be scheduled for executive session (a committee vote). If it passes out of that committee by the deadline of March 1, it will go to Rules, and from there, if we’re lucky, to the Floor for a vote by March 13.

IF THE BILL GETS TO THE SENATE FLOOR, we must get a majority of Senators to vote in favor of the bill or it dies. The deadline is March 13. The run-up to this vote (the first week or so of March) is the time when we really need everyone’s help educating legislators. Many are completely uninformed about this issue. We’ll be back in touch about how to do this.

Then, if the bill passes out of the Senate, it goes to the House, most likely to the Public Safety Committee, and starts again through the whole process of hearings and committee votes. It can be amended at several points along the way, so we will be keeping a close eye on what is happening. It could get through both Houses this year. OR, if it gets held up in a committee for some reason, it will remain alive for next year, and it will stay at the same spot in the process so that we don’t have to start over.

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128

I apologize!!! I’m totally wrong

Oh no! I’m so sorry! The bill allows for review after 15 years, and people over 60 can get review after having served half their sentence.I have been so terrified that they were going to do something horrible that I guess just I saw what I was expecting.

Again, my apologies. I didn’t mean to scare you–or myself!

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128

Butchered bill passes out of committee

The Law & Justice Committee passed a MISERABLE substitute bill. It allows review only for people over 60, completely eliminates review for agg murder because they’re doing away with the death penalty, and adds even more language about victims. Pedersen made it absolutely clear that they have no intention of even considering agg murder. 

What now? We will have some chances to ask for amendments along with way as the bill goes forward–if it does–but once again, they basically chickened out, catering to prosecutors and other “stakeholders.” The House is notoriously timid about positive criminal justice reform, so our odds of fixing this bill there are not good. I am furious. 

Here is their own statement of what their new bill does. The new bill itself is long and will be up on our website ASAP.

Effect Statement 

PSSB 5819 Dhingra Ivory 

·Modifies the eligibility criteria to petition for post conviction review (Section 2):
o Person must not currently be under jurisdiction of the Board by another statute;

o If person is serving a sentence for Murder 1, person must have served 20 consecutive years for the current charge prior to petitioning

o Person may petition for review if over the age of 60 and has served at least one-half of sentence

o Person may not have any appeals pending

·Language is added to reinforce involvement of victim in consideration for release (Section 3): 

o If victim chooses to participate, Board must consider victim input regarding protective measures for supervision and supports victim may need if person released;

o Board encouraged to develop standard written victim impact questionnaire for submittal to the Board in addition to the standard victim impact statement; 

o Prosecutors office must certify they have exhausted all reasonable efforts to locate and contact victim;

o Department must ensure defendant is not released to where victim resides;

o If offender commits new law violation while on supervision, Board must return offender to institution for remainder of sentence. Offender may not file new petition for release. (Section 3) 

o Clarifies in RCW 9.94A.570 that person sentenced to LWOP for aggravated murder is not eligible for release. (Section 7) 

o Adjusts membership and minimum qualifications of Board. Board ember to include a victim’s advocate. (Section 14)

o Allows JUVBRD offender (person committed prior to his or her 18th birthday) to petition for review after serving no less than fifteen years of total confinement rather than twenty. (Section 35) 

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128 

Our compromise proposal

Here’s what we’re proposing, an idea that came from Rachael Seevers, the attorney at Disability Rights Washington who is leading our coalition. Rachael has already sent this proposal to Pedersen, Dhingra, and committee staff. We suggest that new Sec. 2(3) be amended to include “(d) was not convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death prior to October 11, 2019 or, if convicted of aggravated murder after that date, has received a majority vote by the review board to permit the filing of a petition for review under this act.”This change would 1) protect the possibility of review for everyone currently in prison for agg murder; 2) bar the people currently sentenced to death from review as the legislature intends; 3) allow the post-conviction review board to decide which new agg murder cases will be  barred from review–a substitute for the death penalty. 
I think this is a brilliant solution to this problem. I hope the legislators agree!

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128

IMPORTANT: Strange bad news

Ironically, the big problem facing us now is that committees in both Houses have passed legislation to do away with the death penalty. That should be a good thing, but it affects us very negatively, because legislators feel the need to guarantee that people sentenced to death never get out. As a result, post-conviction review for all people convicted of agg murder, whether or not they were sentenced to death, appears to be off the table as a result. That does not mean that our bill won’t go forward, but that it will probably exclude agg murder.We can’t let this be the last word on the subject! It must be possible to amend our bill to say that a person convicted of agg murder is eligible for review unless s/he has received the death penalty. In the meantime, I suggest we write to Dhingra and Pedersen, who seem to be working on a substitute bill (per J. Darneille’s email below), and ask them to find a way to make this happen.

manka.dhingra@leg.wa.gov

jamie.pedersen@leg.wa.gov

Otherwise, LWOP for the 8 people on death row means no review for hundred of others. There is a better way to do this. 
Below is the email that went out from Darneille’s office last night, while I was at the prison talking to the men in the CLO/BPC.

Subject: Post-Conviction Review Board Bill – update

Good evening all,

We had a very successful hearing in the Law and Justice Committee and I appreciate so much the outpouring of support for the development of a new post-conviction review board to help provide hope for people with long and life sentences.  My concerns that the bill would have a tougher time coming out of the Law and Justice Committee compared with the Human Services Committee were not founded.  Senators Pedersen and Dhingra are working on a substitute bill and there are several moving parts.  With the vote by all Democrats on both committees to eliminate the death penalty, the conflict exists with that language that a person sentenced for aggravated murder will receive life without possibility of parole.  I do not anticipate, therefore, that persons convicted of an aggravated murder will be eligible for a review by a post-conviction review board.  Other issues continue to be discussed, but will be determined soon, as the bill must be voted out of committee this week.  I appreciate very much the input and advocacy of everyone on this bill and recognize that our success with moving the bill forward will also come with some disappointments about the terms of the substitute and possibly additional amendments that may come up along the way, hopefully, to the Governor’s desk.

Respectfully,

Jeannie Darneille
State Senator, 27th Legislative District
237 John A. Cherberg Bldg.
P.O. Box 40427
Olympia, WA 98504-0427
Phone:  (360) 786-7652
Toll free: (800) 562-6000
Jeannie.Darneille@leg.wa.gov
Legislative Assistant:  Lisa Fisch
Session Aide:  Leena Vo
Session Intern:  Nate Williams

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128 

Ideas for notes to legislators

Answering your questions about what to say when you write to legislators. Most important, tell them clearly what you want them to do, something like, “I’m writing to ask you to support SB5819 (Post-Conviction Review)  in the executive session Thursday.” Below are some possible additions, but don’t hesitate to just write your own personal reasons. Those are always very strong. Doesn’t have to be long–2 or 3 sentences are fine.

  • It’s an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money to keep people in prison when they no longer pose a threat to anyone–especially when our prisons are over capacity. It is also inhumane.
  • Aging prisoners cost four times as much to house and are highly unlikely to commit new crimes.
  • A post-conviction review system would create hope in a hopeless system and motivate prisoners to improve themselves.
  • The most racially disproportionate population of prisoners are those serving very long sentences, This bill would offer us a chance to finally correct that.
  • This bill does not “open the flood gates.” It is about review for everyone and carefully considered release for some. 
  • This bill provides careful consideration of who should be released based on at least 15 years of behavioral data and risk assessment. Right now, there is no review at all before a person is released.
  • There is nothing the legislature could do that would more dramatically change the culture inside our prisons from despair to hope, from apathy to achievement, than passing this bill.

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128

Update–Executive session already scheduled!

Wow! Looks like Law & Justice is serious about moving 5819! Sen. Pedersen has already scheduled the bill for executive session next week on the 21st, which is the vote that will move it out of this committee before the deadline. Congratulations! Your work emailing the committee and making the Olympia trip is already paying off.

If you haven’t written the committee members yet, between now and the 21st is the perfect time. Here are the addresses again, with the correct address for Padden this time. 

jamie.pedersen@leg.wa.gov  

manka.dhingra@leg.wa.gov 

lynda.wilson@leg.wa.gov 

patty.kuderer@leg.wa.gov 

jeff.holy@leg.wa.gov 

jesse.salomon@leg.wa.gov

mike.padden@leg.wa.gov

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128 

Update: Today’s hearing (Feb 14, 2019)

We still don’t have the substitute bill, so  today’s hearing was on the current version. 
Testimony against the bill came primarily from the prosecutors’ and the sheriffs/police chiefs associations–they even dragged out the specter of releasing Gary Ridgeway. But prosecutors did suggest that they might consider this review system if agg murder and murder required 20 or 25 years to be eligible for a hearing. That’s a reasonable point of negotiation. Most of the victim testimony came from a single family and was as much about the incompetence of the ISRB and the hassle of being asked repeatedly for input as it was about the punishment for the person who did it. 
Testimony in favor of the bill. We had a strong and detailed presentation by Jeannie Darneille on why we needed the legislation and how it came about, as well as strong testimony from a number of panels, including former prisoners, family members, Katherine Beckett (UW researcher), DRW (about elderly prisoners). We also had crime survivors testifying in favor of the bill. The most memorable and emotional testimony of the day, to me, came from a victim who’d nearly been killed and is now about to become a father. He demanded that the government not use the fact that he had been hurt as an excuse for hurting someone else.
What’s next? Well, we’ll have to let you know. Normally, if we weren’t waiting on the substitute, the bill would be scheduled for executive action in the next day or two (that is, a vote by the committee to move it forward). But perhaps they’ll do something exceptional in this case. One way or the other, the bill must move forward before Feb 22, the deadline for getting it out of the committee, to have a chance of passing this session.

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128

Hearing at 10 tomorrow Feb 14! Room 4, Cherberg Building

If you can, please come to Olympia on Feb 14 to show your support for SB5819! This is the most important criminal justice bill in 35 years, and the momentum is in our favor RIGHT NOW.

Sen.Pedersen, chair of the Law & Justice committee, expects to give the bill about 40 minutes in a jam-packed agenda. We (the coalition of organizations working on this bill) have put together four panels of testimony to include a spectrum of important voices.

If you haven’t done so yet, please contact members of the committee and let them know that you support SB5819 and, briefly, why.

jamie.pedersen@leg.wa.gov
manka.dhingra@leg.wa.gov 
lynda.wilson@leg.wa.gov 
patty.kuderer@leg.wa.gov 
jeff.holy@leg.wa.gov 
jesse.salomon@leg.wa.gov
mike.padden@leg.wa.gov

See you all tomorrow Feb 14! I’ll be wearing a name tag. Come and introduce yourselves!

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington
206-276-9128