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Women Prisoners Meet Board

The Washington State parole Board has been going from prison to prison setting new minimum terms for offenders serving time for murder. In 1989 the average amount of time served on a murder one was 150.1 months. Along came the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA), which is tougher on violent crimes, and now the Board is making adjustments to the terms of old guideline prisoners. Male prisoners have been getting minimum terms in the neighborhood of 300 and 400 months.

These new Board reviews, conducted as a result of House Bill 1457 that was recently passed into law, are under legal challenge by prisoners at Monroe and at other facilities within the state. The Board recently conducted 1457 reviews at the Purdy women's prison. A prisoner there provides this report:

Several 1457 reviews were done last month and the rest will be done this month. The recommendations ran to the top of the SRA guideline range in most cases. Nobody got 240 months. Warnings were given by the Board that these were only recommendations, and that it likely the Board will return with even more time in the form of an exceptional sentence. The lowest recommendation was 257 months; the highest 380 (with a warning that it will likely come back even higher).

The way the Board is applying priors to determine the offender score is not done according to the SRA guidelines. For example, on a felony murder where the underlying crime (such as a robbery) encompassed the same criminal conduct and involved one victim, the Board is adding two points for the underlying crime and raising the sentence range. Purdy prisoners told the Board of its error in a letter, supported with case law, but the Board said they would stay with their interpretation. Litigation will most likely follow.

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