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Prison/Community Alliance Update

By Carrie Roth

The Prisoner/Community Alliance received a phone call from former Rep. Doug Sayan on Jan. 21, 1992. He said that the draft bill is now at the Code Revisors Office. The bill is an Omnibus bill which will include several aspects of sentencing. As of this date, Jan. 22, 1992, Rep. Hargrove, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Corrections has agreed to sponsor the bill. On Monday, Jan. 27, 1992 there was another hearing before the Subcommittee on Corrections in which those who testified at the Dec. 6, 1992 hearing were asked to testify again.

What we know of this bill, as of this writing, is part of it calls for the elimination of the ISRB, another part is to eliminate parole revocations. Also included is a part to change the sentence structure of the Sentencing Reform Act. The biII goes to the Executive Committee on Monday, Feb. 3, 1992. We have not yet seen the bill and will not see it until it is printed. This causes some concern with us.

We have been told that in order to get some we need to give some. We have been told that the changes in the SRA would place in effect a safety net to 'catch' the more dangerous offenders. This sounds logical on the surface, but I see it as a method of changing determinate sentencing into another form of indeterminate sentencing. We have been told that a bill that could potentially release hundreds of offenders onto the street would never make it through the legislature. That may be correct, but it is possible that only that part would make it through the legislature and the elimination of the ISRB would be cut as the 'bargaining tool.'

I don't want to sound pessimistic because we are further now than we were this time last year. We know now we have support and this support seems to be increasing. However, the game of "politics" is extremely frustrating.

Supposedly, if we don't have some added safeguards written in, the bill will never make it past Joe King, Speaker of the House. He is running for Governor and would ignore the bill if it appears to be soft on criminals. Of course, even if we get it past the house, the bill still needs to pass a very Republican Senate. Very few bills pass the first year they are introduced. I don't know what the chances are of this bill succeeding. It is surprising we have gotten this far.

One of the problems we were facing with the Initiative to the People was the Ballot Titles and Summaries we were getting back from the Attorney Generals office. Edward Mackey was the Assistant AG who seemed to be put in charge of doing the writing. The summaries were coming back so biased they were virtually unusable. I called someone in another state agency and he said, "off the record," that the AGs office is there to protect state agencies. Basically, we would never get a fair Ballot Summary from them. Our next step would be to go through the Thurston County courts to get a decision on the wording of the Summary.

Anyway, that is where we are today. There is no way to keep you informed as things happen. I want to apologize to those of you who have written and who have not received a response. Most of us involved work full time and are pressed for time. We will know more by next Inonth.

We have been moving forward. Regardless of what happens during this session we have to keep moving forward. There are a lot of people ready to start gathering signatures for the Initiative to the People. However, by the time we find out whether or not this passes, we will have lost two months of time we could have used to gather signatures. We probably still could get the needed signatures judging from the response so far. Maybe, just maybe, we won't have to. Maybe it will turn out we have elected leaders rather than elected followers in Olympia. Maybe they will do what is right and what is long overdue.


Today, Feb. 2, 1992, we were informed the Criminal Justice Omnibus Bill is House Bill #2834. Call the toll-fee number, 1-800-321-2808 or the Legislative hotline, 1-800-562-6000 and see if the bill is still alive. If it is, contact your legislators in support of this bill.

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