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Prison/Community Alliance Update

By Martin Roth

The Prison/Community Alliance has received a lot of letters statewide from organizations, as well as individuals, who are interested in and supportive of our stated objectives. Several of these contacts were made as a result of those of you who have shared news of the P/CA, through the Prisoners Legal News, with each other. We are extremely pleased with the response, both from prisoners and those in the "free world" community. It has enabled us to establish a foundation of support among diverse organizations with mutual concerns. The Prison/Community Alliance is an organization that hopes to serve us all - prisoners and citizens alike, and, in that sense, intends to represent our needs and concerns to the fullest extent of which we are capable. Your continued interest and support is crucial. Let me bring you up to date on recent activities.

The P/CA and members of the Community Help Foundation Unlimited met with Senator Gary Nelson, Chairman of the Senate Law & Justice Committee in early March. The focus of the meeting was the Initiative. Senator Nelson appears 'closed' to the idea of the Initiative. He seems to favor the continued existence of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB). One of his statements was to the effect that "As soon as a determinate inmate gets out and commits a heinous crime, the public will be clamoring for the reinstatement of the parole board!" The P/CA knew that the Law & Justice Committee is a supporter of the ISRB. In mid-February Senator Nelson's committee met and discussed the Legislative Budget Committee's performance audit recommendations. The preliminary and final recommendations of the auditors is that there be a comprehensive review of sentencing in the state of Washington addressing the issues of end-of-term review, current statutory maximum terms, program availability for prisoners, community supervision, budgeting and forecasting, and operations and staffing plan for the board. Senator Nelson's comments at that time were that it was felt the previous "review" (i.e., the Community Protection Act and H.B. 1457) was sufficient!

The P/CA is coordinating a major effort to educate organizations and the public as to this situation, and to obtain this needed review on the scale recommended by the LCB's auditors, who are in agreement as to the problems we have with the ISRB.

Other issues brought up by Barbetta Ralphs, attorney, were the Murder 1 offenders not being allowed legal representation at resentencing hearings. Senator Nelson indicated the law would be changed to include legal representation at hearings (a little late). Also, attorney Ralphs inquired into state offenders being housed in federal prisons. Nelson stated he didn't think this was true, but later responded by letter. We presently have 65 Washington prisoners held in institutions outside of the state. These are disbursed among 28 states and several federal prisons. There are 60 prisoners who come from other states presently being held in within Washington institutions. There are seven Washington state offenders being held in federal facilities, and only two federal prisoners presently in Washington state facilities.

On Sunday, March 17, 1991, members of the P/CA met with Representative Brekke from the 32nd legislative district. Representative Brekke and her assistant Charles Lair have offered their help and assistance regarding our concerns.

Finally, the rough draft of the bill we are proposing in the Initiative is completed and is going through final scrutiny.

The progress of the Prison/Community Alliance, and further developments with respect to the Initiative and other issues, will be reported in the PLN on a regular basis. We urge you to keep reading and supporting the PLN, and to continue spreading the word to as many others as possible. Remember, what happens to any one of us (whether SRA or pre-SRA) can happen to any of the rest of us. We all need to be concerned with and support one another's legitimate efforts.

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