Criminal Justice

Convener, Criminal Justice Working Group:
Dani Rowland [email protected]

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2016 Focus Issues:

  • Corrections Ombuds
    • Support HB 2817 (in House Appropriations) and SB 6154 (in Senate Rules). An Ombuds office, contracted to a non-profit organization, would act as a liaison between the Department of Corrections, prisoners and their families, and the public, promoting understanding of the rights and responsibilities of offenders.
    • Prisons and prisoners are out of the public eye. The Ombuds Office would have the authority to visit prisons, provide information about conditions, and make specific recommendations.
  • Reform of Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) for released prisoners
    • Support HB 1390 (passed House 97-0; now in the Senate Law and Justice Committee). LFOs refer to restitution, fines, public defender costs, incarceration costs, drug treatment, etc.
    • Provisions of the bill: (1) Accrual of interest (now 12%) on the non-restitution portion is eliminated in the future, and retroactively upon motion of the offender, (2) A court may not impose non-restitution LFOs on a person found indigent at the time of sentencing, and (3) Payments go to restitution as highest priority.
    • Relief from LFOs would help released prisoners reconstruct their lives, reduce recidivism, and thus enhance public safety.
    • A second bill,  SB 6642 (now in Senate Rules) addresses only item (3) above on restitution, but does not help the offender reintegrate into society; it should not replace  HB 1390, although its language could be used in the more comprehensive bill, HB 1390.
  • Post-secondary education for prisoners
    • Support HB 2619 (in House Rules Committee) and SB 6260 (on calendar for vote in the Senate). These bills would overturn current law that prevents the state from financially supporting post-secondary education for inmates. Read Tom Ewell’s testimony on SB 6260.
    • RAND Corporation studies have shown that education greatly increases the likelihood of employment after prison, so that prisoners are far less likely to return to prison, saving far more than the cost of the education.

Longer Term Goals (How we measure the impact of our activity):

  • Give priority to efforts to repair the harm suffered by victims over attempts to punish offenders
  • Look for opportunities to take preventive action to identify and address the causes of crime
  • Replace costly incarceration through diversion, drug treatment, job training, and education whenever appropriate
  • Redress the racial inequity of our current criminal justice system
  • Support offenders’ efforts to redeem themselves and reintegrate into society


The Criminal Justice Working Group Practices