Vigil to End Mass Incarceration on MLK day

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IN 2020:  COME TO THE MLK-DAY RALLY AGAINST MASS INCARCERATION!  We (1300 people, including you!) will caravan in buses, vans, and private cars from across the state and meet on the north steps of the capitol building in Olympia at 5 p.m. There we’ll take part in a rally to End Mass Incarceration and Mass Victimization. We will hear from a few former prisoners, families, and victims, and listen to some music. We’ll end with a candlelight vigil–we’ll light 1300 candles for the 1300 men and women who are currently serving sentences so long they can’t live to complete them, and for all of the others harmed directly or indirectly by mass incarceration–crime survivors, families of both victims and prisoners, and all of the people whose lives would be improved if the money we spend on locking people up for decades were available for education, reducing homelessness and addiction, addressing mental health. 

WHY A RALLY IN OLYMPIA? Our legislators insist that we don’t have mass incarceration in Washington. They’re wrong. Washington isn’t bad compared to other U.S. states, but that’s only because the U.S. locks up the highest percentage of its people in the world–by far. If Washington were a country, we would be 5th in the world in the percentage of our citizens behind bars, out of about 220 countries. There’s nothing more important you can do for the people in Washington prisons–no greater gift–than to participate in this rally. We need legislators to get this message: THERE IS MASS INCARCERATION IN WASHINGTON AND THAT IS A PROBLEM! 

HOW CAN I GET TO OLYMPIA FROM MY AREA? We have some funding for buses, which hold 56 people. Can you fill a bus with friends and acquaintances from your area? Let us know. Otherwise, we will try to coordinate buses and rides for those who need them. You can indicate when you sign up whether you need or can offer a ride.
 Please sign up and come! Many hopes are riding with you.

IN OTHER NEWS: THE OUTLOOK FOR PAROLE LEGISLATION this year remains murky. 5819 is alive, but barely. It is being rewritten to address the concerns of certain legislators, particularly Sen. Dhingra. It will probably be weakened in the process, but we don’t know yet. Sen. Dhingra intends to run a geriatric release bill; we haven’t seen it yet, but we understand that it’s going to be limited and affect very few people. Rep. Frame may introduce an emerging adults bill that would raise the age limit on juvenile review from 18 to 25, and Rep. Walen may introduce a good, strong geriatric release bill. However, it’s likely that neither of those two bills will be introduced during the 2020 session (This is the short session, which occurs in even-numbered years; legislators are usually unwilling to take on controversial bills during the 60-day session). But that decision, too, is still up in the air. In the meantime, Rep. Roger Goodman has established a Criminal Justice Task Force that is supposed to look at the whole criminal sentencing system as well as the recommendations the Sentencing Guidelines Commission made this year. The task force includes some good people, but the process will take another year at least, and whatever they end up recommending will still have to go through the legislative process.

Carol Estes
Prison Voice Washington

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