Historic day! Prisoners testify in WA legislature

Sen. Darneille’s committee heard live testimony on Feb 7 from prisoners–a first! Watch online in the TVW archives at https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2019021111.

Who’s eligible for review? We have been concerned that the current version of Darneille’s bill, 5819, seems to exclude those convicted of aggravated murder. But according to Sen. Darneille’s office, that was not her intention and should be corrected in a revised version due out in the next day or so. The revised bill should also include the edits from the CLO, BPC, and DRW.

SENATE HEARING on Valentine’s Day. The bill (5819) has ended up in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, and the revised version is scheduled for a hearing there at 1:30 on the 14th. However, that committee has an extremely full agenda that day. We’re working with Sen. Darneille’s and Sen. Pedersen’s offices to figure out what specific testimony is needed and will let you know.

ACTION in the House! Representative Frame has told us that she intends to be the prime sponsor for both the Emerging Adult Bill and the companion bill to the Senate’s 5819–wonderful news! (A “companion bill” is an identical bill introduced simultaneously in the other chamber. That means both bills can progress to Floor votes at the same time, speeding up the process.) Unfortunately, Rep. Pettigrew, who had originally agreed to prime the Elderly Prisoners bill, decided to not to include everyone, removing agg murder from his draft. We have told him that we simply can’t support that, so it remains to be seen whether anything will happen with that bill.

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington

Statement on Coyote Ridge Hunger Strike

Prison Voice Washington is keeping in touch with families of those incarcerated at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center as prisoners there continue a hunger strike in protest of the Correctional Industries factory food system. Concerns about the food appear to be consistent with complaints at several other prisons in Washington State: nutritional quality of the food fails to comply with the standards of the DOH Healthy Nutrition Guidelines, as required by Executive Order 13-06, and the cold “breakfast boats” (bagged breakfasts) are heavy in refined carbohydrates and deficient in fresh fruit and protein. The primary sources of protein in these breakfast boats are small powdered milk packets and packets of hydrogenated-oil packed peanut butter. The Washington Department of Corrections and its revenue branch, Correctional Industries, have received ongoing pressure from many stakeholder groups and public officials since the Prison Voice Washington report on the DOC-CI food model came out in 2016. In response, DOC and CI have promised to reinstate more nutritious hot breakfasts served in dining halls at all prisons in the state over the next couple of years, phasing out the nutritionally deficient bagged breakfasts served cold in prison cells. This process has already begun at Washington State Penitentiary in response to an April 2018 hunger strike at that facility. Monroe Correctional Complex is slated to be the next facility to have hot breakfasts reinstated, though we have yet to see what negotiations might occur between DOC and those incarcerated at Coyote Ridge who are tired of waiting for healthy food in sufficient quantities, as mandated by Executive Order 13-06. 

Parole Legislative Update #4

SB5819 is now the official bill number of the post-conviction review bill coming from Jeannie Darneille’s office (what used to be S-1138.1). You can read it online on the legislature’s website, leg.wa.gov. But the bill itself is very long (over 100 pages) and fairly confusing. More helpful–and coming soon to the legislature’s website–is the much shorter Bill Report, the document legislators themselves rely on to tell them what’s in the bill. 

Work session:  This Thursday committee members will hear testimony from the prisoners in the Concerned Lifers Organization and the Black Prisoners Caucus at WSR. (This is unprecedented, as far as I know. Kudos to Jeannie Darneille!) There will not be public testimony at this hearing, but I am told that legislators will have an opportunity for back-and-forth dialog with the prisoners. Tune in to TVW at 1:30 on Thursday to hear the prisoners’ testimony.

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington 206-276-9128