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Inslee, state leaders launch comprehensive review of state's criminal justice system

June 24, 2014

Story 

Justice Reinvestment effort will inform efforts to reduce crime and recidivism, increase public safety, and address forecasted shortage of prison capacity 

OLYMPIA— Gov. Jay Inslee was joined today by a bipartisan group of state leaders to sign an executive order launching initiating a comprehensive study of the state’s criminal justice system that will identify ways to address growing pressures on the prison system and boost public safety. The executive order establishes an inter-branch, bipartisan Justice Reinvestment Task Force to guide the study.

“Washington is a recognized leader in innovative and effective criminal justice policy, and we’ve seen how smart investments in our system can pay off,” Inslee said. “We’re forecasted to need another 1,000 prison beds by 2018, and I think this is the right time to take a step back, take a deep look at our current system and talk about opportunities to effectively leverage our public safety dollars. I’m hopeful the work of this task force will reveal the drivers of prison growth so we can develop strategies to address them while continuing to improve public safety consistent with our Results Washington goal measure of reducing recidivism.”

Washington’s corrections facilities now operate at 2 percent over capacity. That number is expected to swell by 9 percent between 2013 and 2023. This projected prison population growth would require between $387 million and $481 million in construction and operating expenses.

“Keeping our residents safe is a top priority, and we can do more to increase safety in Washington,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler. “In 2012, Washington had the third-highest property crime rate in the country. We have to understand the unique challenges in our state so we can develop more effective policies that will reduce crime and better protect the Washington public.”

The task force comprises 21 representatives from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, in addition to key state and local criminal justice stakeholders. The task force will be led by Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam and Nick Brown, Inslee’s general counsel. The Council of State Governments  Justice Center, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, will provide technical assistance to the task force.

“There is bipartisan agreement that we need smart strategies to address our prison capacity issues,” said House Speaker Frank Chopp. “A comprehensive picture of our criminal justice system will be of tremendous value as we discuss our options moving forward.”

The task force will reach out to a broad range of interested groups on the state and county level, including superior court judges, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, parole board members, law enforcement officials, victims and community treatment providers.

“The project will examine Washington’s sentencing system to help us understand how practices across the state affect Washingtonians,” said Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. “The justice reinvestment process provides a clear opportunity to do a thoughtful review of the criminal justice system. Our judges will play an important role in the conversation on how to make our system more just and effective.”

“We applaud the leadership Washington officials are demonstrating to advance the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in their state,” said Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Denise E. O’Donnell. “By launching this project and establishing an inter-branch task force, Washington becomes the 23rd state to take important steps through the JRI toward creating new justice reform policies grounded in research and state-specific data that will improve community safety.” 

“Washington has long been a national leader in using research and data to drive criminal justice policy and keep prison costs under control,” said Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s public safety performance project. “This initiative is a fresh opportunity for the state to channel its public safety spending toward the strategies that will have the greatest impact on crime and recidivism.”

Information about the Justice Reinvestment Task Force is available at www.governor.wa.gov/issues/reform/justice/default.aspx. To learn more about Justice Reinvestment in Washington and other states, please visit www.csgjusticecenter.org/jr/wa.

About the Council of State Governments Justice Center
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state and federal levels from all branches of government. The CSG Justice Center provides practical, nonpartisan advice and evidence-based, consensus-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities. These efforts, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, have provided similar data-driven analyses and policy options to state leaders in 20 other states to date.

Media Contact 

Office of the Governor
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