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Washington Legislation Passed

The Washington legislature was in session for a mercifully short 60 day session between January and March, 1996. In that period several hundred anti-prisoner and anti-defendant bills were introduced, at a cost of $1,500 each. While several passed the legislature about half of those passed were vetoed by governor Mike Lowry. The following bills were signed into law:

HB 2195: This law modifies RCW 9.73.095 and allows for the electronic monitoring of all telephonic and non-telephonic conversations in prison living units, cells, rooms, dormitories and common spaces where prisoners may be present. The law requires the DOC to notify visitors, staff and prisoners of this law in writing. The law doesn't effect any real change as the WA DOC has electronically recorded conversations in visiting rooms, cells, common areas, etc., for years. This bill was introduced at the DOC's request.

HB 2320: This is also known as the "Two Strikes Rape Bill." It modifies the 3 strikes law, RCW 9.94A.030, by requiring only a second conviction for any defendant convicted a second time of the following offenses: first and second degree rape; indecent liberties by forcible compulsion; and any of the following offenses if they were specifically found to have been sexually motivated: first and second degree murder, kidnapping, assault and first degree burglary. The mandatory sentence for such a second conviction is life imprisonment without parole. It is interesting that sex crimes against children are not included among the "two strikes" crimes. Those who rape adults only get two shots at a life sentence while pedophiles get three. The most likely reason for this is that rich people are more likely to molest children than to rape adults. Governor Lowry exercised a partial veto on this bill by vetoing a section which would have prohibited the DOC from providing any type of treatment or counseling to offenders convicted under the two strikes provision.

HB 2358: Increased the payments available to victims of crime and also requires a financial penalty to be assessed against juvenile offenders.

SB 5500: This changed the primary method of state killing in Washington from hanging to lethal injection. Prior to this it had been the other way around, unless a prisoner choose the means of death he was hanged. This resulted in numerous legal challenges to the use of hanging. This law is aimed at mooting those legal challenges to hanging as the primary means of state murder.

SB 6315: In the February, 1996 issue of PLN we reported Richey v. Nerup where a federal court found that the DOC lacked statutory authority to seize prisoner funds from their trust accounts to satisfy cost bills imposed in unsuccessful litigation. This law, introduced at the DOC's request, is aimed at resolving at least that part of the ruling. The new law states: "The department shall record as a debt any costs assessed by a court against an inmate plaintiff where the state is providing defense pursuant to chapter 4.92 RCW. The department shall recoup the debt when the inmate's institutional account exceeds the indigency standard and may pursue other remedies to recoup the debt after the period of incarceration." The law also allows the DOC to contract out the collection of unpaid debts to collection agencies if there is still a debt after a prisoner is released.

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