A sequence of events has shown we have the much-needed support in Olympia to help us meet our goal of having all offenders sentences adjusted to the SRA. The meeting on Friday, Dec. 6, 1991 before the Human Services Subcommittee on Corrections was extremely successful. It is still not a sure bet, but we have a much better chance to succeed now than we did.
Last November P/CA was contacted by former Rep. Doug Sayan who was at one time supportive of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB). He has taken a further look into the problems of the ISRB and is now helping us. His knowledge of the ISRB and his change in position has legislators in Olympia listening to him.
We have been told this is the first time organizations have testified before the House subcommittee in regards to the ISRB. Testimony prior to this was from individuals about individual problems. The P/CA was only one of several organizations, both local and national, to testify. Testifying on behalf of the ISRB was Kit Bail, Chair. She had to admit that in the past few years the ISRB brought back into prison more people that they have let out on parole. One of the representatives also asked their attorney if it was legal for the parole board to give the inmates more time than they had originally been given.
Before the meeting ended, Rep. Hargrove, Chair of the Subcommittee, asked Mr. Sayan, "How do you propose to correct the problems involving the ISRB?" Mr. Sayan's reply was that we would have legislation prepared. After our part of the subcommittee meeting ended, we met in another room to decide our next step. Along with others, two top defense attorneys will prepare draft legislation for the upcoming legislative session. The P/CA agreed at that time that the initiative to the people would be counterproductive. So as it stands now, we will wait until the end of the upcoming session to see if we are successful. If we fail in this session we will have one of two choices to make. Either use the legislation that will be presented to the legislature as the initiative to the people for the November 1992 election or try again in the legislature in 1993.
We want the Legislature to take responsibility for this problem. They are the ones that caused it. The Human Services Subcommittee on Corrections appears willing to sponsor this legislation. The best thing people can do now is prepare to contact your legislators this coming session. Tell them of the injustices caused by the ISRB and how their decisions have affected you. If you are a woman dependent on the state's welfare system because your husband is in prison...tell them. If you are in prison and afraid that when you do finally get out that you will be too old to work... tell them. If you are in a group that sees what is happening... contact your legislator. They need to know the total cost involved with keeping pre-SRA offenders in prison. The more contact that all legislators have with the public on the injustices of the ISRB, the better our chances are of getting this legislation passed. We all know the injustices of the ISRB. Our legislators need to know how these affect you and society - financially as well as emotionally. Let them know the anger and frustration building in you and your family and friends. Tell them how counter-productive this anger is to public safety. They also need to know of technical violations that sent you or your loved ones back to prison.
The time is now. The state's budget problems are in our favor. We need to keep moving forward. Write your legislator or call them toll-free on the Governor's information line, 1-800-321-2808, and ask to speak to your senator or representative. Every letter and phone call brings us just that much closer to our goal. These people are our elected officials - we need them to hear us. The time is right for them to listen.
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