We’re off to the strongest start ever, in a decade of work on the issue of sentence review. (Sentence review leading to the possibility of early release is essentially parole.) From what we’re hearing, the bills listed below are in the works.
In the House:
Eric Pettigrew is the prime sponsor of a bill that will provide
- sentence review with the possibility of release for all prisoners over age 50 who have served 20 years in prison.
Noel Frame will either sponsor or line up a sponsor for a bill to provide
- sentence review after 20 years for all prisoners convicted before age 25.
In the Senate:
Jeannie Darneille will be the prime sponsor of a comprehensive bill that would provide, among other things,
- sentence review for prisoners over 50 who have served over 20 years.
We don’t know yet whether it will include everyone. We haven’t seen it yet, but we have HIGH HOPES.
Manka Dhingra is sponsoring a bill that would provide
- sentence review for people over age 60 who have served 15 years in prison.
Sen. Dhingra has said that she’s not wedded to this proposal but is using it to open a long overdue conversation about sentence review. We applaud that intention, but this bill is UNACCEPTABLE for three reasons: 1) people who come to prison young would serve up to 42 years longer before review than older people; 2) 60 years is too old to begin a successful life outside prison; and 3) prisoners serving life without the possibility of parole are excluded.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:
Right now, we are working with legislators to ensure two things. First, that no group of prisoners is excluded from review in any of these bills. Our mantra: Review is for EVERYONE. Release is not. Second, it is essential that people convicted as juveniles retain the “presumption of release” that is currently part of their sentence review system.
Later this week,we will have the bill numbers for you. We will also be working quickly to get as many legislators as possible to sign onto these bills as supporters.
After that,public hearings will be scheduled in both the House and the Senate. That’s when we’ll need you in Olympia!
If you’d like more comprehensive information on these issues or to see copies of the bills as they become available, go to prisonvoicewa.org.