HELP REFORM BAIL
Help allow people to defend themselves from a position of freedom.
Help make strides toward equality and justice for all people.
At every stage, the U.S. criminal punishment system is deeply racialized and extreme in its harshness, from policing to prosecution to sentencing, imprisonment, and reentry. The U.S. criminal punishment system works to keep a person imprisoned long after leaving confinement, be it through exorbitant legal financial obligations or by making a criminal record a barrier to housing or employment. While our juvenile court system is supposed to focus on rehabilitation, reduced punishment, and care for justice-involved youth, juvenile facilities frankly end up serving as “mini jails.” All of these consequences fall disproportionately on people of color.
The Northwest Community Bail Fund (NCBF) advocates ending pre-trial detention, the cash bail system, and dismantling our racialized criminal punishment system. We believe the poor shouldn’t face harsher punishment than the rich. We work to ensure that people returning home after imprisonment have a chance to find employment, a safe place to live and care for their health and their families.
Each January, beginning in 2022, NCBF will release our legislative priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Our advocacy direction will primarily focus on dismantling and transforming two of the key racialized systems perpetuating poverty, injustice, and dehumanization: criminal punishment and mass incarceration.
Check Out Our Legislative Priorities: here
Learn More About the Legislative Process
The Washington State Legislature is made up of two houses (or chambers), the Senate and the House of Representatives. Washington has 49 legislative districts, each of which elects a Senator and two Representatives. Senators serve four-year terms and Representatives serve two-year terms. The Senate and House of Representatives meet in session each year to create new laws, change existing laws, and enact budgets for the State.
Unfortunately, given COVID-19, we can’t plan traditional lobby visits. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make our voices heard! This overview has all the information you need to plan a successful virtual lobby visit on any issue.
Washington State has one of the most open legislatures in the country. A bill has a public hearing before Senate and House committees before being considered on the floor of the House and Senate. During the 2021 session, House and Senate committees will meet virtually. You have the opportunity to provide written testimony, state your position on a bill, or register to testify remotely via videoconference by registering at Committee Sign In. You may also contact your legislator making your position on a bill known. You can do so by writing a letter, sending an email, calling the legislator’s Olympia office, or by calling the Legislative Hotline at 800.562.6000.
Please note: This is a general description of issue areas considered by committees; not a definitive or exhaustive listing. It is provided solely to assist in understanding the general roles of House committees.
However, you answer this question: “Who can I talk to today to help make strides toward equality and justice for all people?” That’s the core message of the Northwest Community Bail Fund’s advocacy efforts. Examples can include telling the nonprofit’s story to a potential funder, talking to a reporter or editor about the organization’s impact in the community, and encouraging local civic groups to send volunteers to a local community event (e.g., court watching). It can also mean telling your story of impact to government officials, educating policymakers about your work, and sharing your expertise in helpful ways.
Help Us Track Your Advocacy Efforts!
JAIL IS NO PLACE FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING
Recently, due to efforts by defenders, prosecutors, and courts, the jail population of King County declined from 1940 to 2017. While we applaud this progress, we remain concerned. We are concerned about the pace of release as the probability of a viral outbreak among the detained population rises. We are concerned that many who remain incarcerated while awaiting trials that continue to be postponed are there solely because they lack access to funds, and therefore they cannot shelter in place with family but remain piled atop one another in jail dorms. We are concerned because many remain behind bars even though they are in a high-risk age group or have underlying medical conditions.
We care deeply for the members of our community who are currently held in jails and have signed on to letters to our elected officials out of concern for their safety and well-being. The danger that COVID-19 poses to the people living under the county’s care and custody cannot be overstated. “Public safety” includes those we choose to lock up in close quarters.
Following is an excerpt from our letter of demands: View the full letter here.
WA State CrR/CrRLJ 3.2 allows bail to be imposed only “if no less restrictive condition or combination of conditions would reasonably assure the safety of the community.” The extraordinary circumstance of this pandemic outbreak warrants a broad review of pretrial detention and the amount of bail imposed in hundreds of cases.
At a minimum we are calling for:
- Immediately release all individuals being held in jail pretrial due to their inability to post monetary bail of $50,000 or less to appropriate conditions of release or other alternatives to jail;
- Promptly identify and release individuals who are at-risk and most vulnerable to infection, including individuals who are over the age of 50 years or who have a serious medical condition (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or immune-compromised) to appropriate conditions of release or other alternatives to jail.4 Jail Health Services’ electronic medical records system should be a useful tool to rapidly identify all such inmate patients;
- Enact an immediate prohibition on arresting or jailing individuals for failure to appear (FTA), legal financial obligations (LFO), or contempt of court matters;
- Enact an immediate prohibition on the imposition of monetary bail for any but the most serious felonies;
- Immediately quash all warrants for misdemeanors, violations of release conditions, unpaid fines or fees, and failure to appear (FTA) in all cases but the most serious felonies;
- Adopt booking criteria to prohibit the incarceration of anyone arrested for any offense but the most serious felonies;
- Release individuals convicted and serving local jail time with remaining sentences of 6 months or less, either outright or to all available alternatives to jail.
Please join us as we continue to put public pressure on officials.
Who to contact:
King County Sheriff Patricia Cole-Tindall (Interim): email
King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Patrick Oishi: email
King County Distric Court Presiding Judge Donna Tucker: email
Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge Willie J. Gregory: email
Director of Jail Health Services Danotra McBride: email
Director of the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention John Diaz: email
Governor Jay Inslee: 360-902-4111/email
Find your King County Council Member here.
Find your Seattle City Council Member here.
For information on contacting State legislators, click here.
For Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier click here.
For Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers email
What you can say:
Hi, my name is _____, and I am a Washington resident who is concerned about the impact of Coronavirus on people who are detained. We are calling for the immediate release of all non-violent pretrial detainees as well as detainees with at-risk health conditions. We further call for a moratorium on new arrests, bookings, and cash bail for all crimes that do not have an immediate impact on public safety. Public safety includes those we choose to lock up in close quarters.
Can we count on you to prevent detained people from dying during this pandemic by taking these actions?
Until we are heard and our jails are empty, Northwest Community Bail Fund will continue to purchase release for those who cannot afford their own bail. If you are able, please Donate here. As fewer bookings and detentions result from stops and arrests – let’s face it, a long-time goal of ours – we are seeing bail amounts skyrocket, along with the increasing desperation of appeals for assistance in getting loved ones out of the ticking time-bomb that our jails have become.
The Northwest Community Bail Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Want to get involved in our Court Watch Program?
NCBF facilitates programs in King County and Pierce County to monitor court activity, gather data and help inform change to protect people from an abusive system. You can get involved today to bring Court Watch to your county or join in current efforts.