Social and Economic Policy
Criminal Justice

The League of Women Voters of Washington recognizes the need for a “criminal justice system that is just, effective, equitable, transparent, and that fosters public trust at all stages, including policing practices, pre-trial procedures, sentencing, incarceration, and re-entry.”

Issue Team Chair: Heather Kelly,
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Overview of the 2024 Legislative Session

Although we made some progress on criminal justice reform in 2023, there is still much work left to do, and several of our priority bills from last year have not yet passed. Together with our partners at the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, we’ll be advocating for bills that:

  1. Limit the use of traffic stops (HB 1513/SB 5572);

  2. Empower the Attorney General’s Office to investigate patterns and practices of misconduct in law enforcement agencies (HB 1445), and;

  3. Create a statewide Office of Independent Prosecutor to make charging decisions in cases of serious or deadly use of force by law enforcement officers (HB 1579).

We’re working with our partners at Look2Justice on two sentencing reform bills that would:

  1. Extend the age for review of juvenile sentences so that people who committed crimes under age 25 (instead of age 18) can seek review after serving 15 years (HB 1325/SB 5451), and

  2. Make the discretionary exclusion of juvenile dispositions (juvenile points) from offender score calculations retroactive (HB 2065/SB 5971).

Finally, we will be advocating for a bill that significantly restricts the use of solitary confinement in Washington prisons (HB 1087/SB 5135), in line with international standards as well as a bill to allow incarcerated citizens to vote (HB 2030). We are also preparing to defend the current law on vehicle pursuits from a potential rollback initiative to the legislature.

Wrapping up the 2024 Legislative Session

This year we prioritized several bills in the areas of police reform, prison conditions, and resentencing. Unfortunately, none of our priority bills passed, which means we’ll just have to work even harder next year! 

With respect to police reform, HB 1579 would have created an Independent Prosecutions Office for cases involving the use of deadly force by police. It passed the House but died in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. HB 1513 (limiting traffic stops) and HB 1445 (authorizing the Attorney General to investigate systemic civil rights violations by law enforcement agencies) did not make it to a floor vote The legislature did pass I-2113 (rolling back limitations on vehicle pursuits), which we advocated against. 

We also supported bills to improve conditions in prison—HB 1087 (ending the use of long-term solitary confinement) and SB 6021 (authorizing free phone calls for people in prison). Neither bill made it out of the fiscal committee in their respective chambers. We also supported HB 2030, giving incarcerated people the right to vote. We did not expect the bill to pass and are pleased that it got a hearing in the Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee. 

Finally, we prioritized two resentencing bills that recognized the impacts of developments in brain science and racial disparities in sentencing. Like HB 1579, HB 2065 (eliminating juvenile adjudications from adult sentencing calculations) died in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. HB 1325 (allowing review of lengthy sentences for crimes committed before age 25) did not make it out of the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee. 

It wasn’t all bad though! The legislature finally passed HB 1541 (Nothing About Us Without Us), which mandates that state task forces, work groups, and advisory committees include members with lived experience. HB 2099 (ensuring that people in state care and custody have valid IDs before discharge) also passed, as did SB 6009 (prohibiting the use of hog-tying). We’ve learned that it can often take at least a couple of sessions to make progress on criminal justice issues, and we are already planning for 2025!

Below are reports the Issue Chair wrote throughout the 2024 Legislative session. There will be no further reports or action alerts this year.

2024 Criminal Justice Legislation

Priority Bills

Bills in green are supported. Bills in red are opposed by the League. Bills in black the League is watching.

None of our priority bills are moving forward.

Unfortunately, our last two remaining priority bills—HB 2065 and HB 1579—died last week in Senate Ways and Means. We will continue to oppose I-2113, but it is expected to pass the Legislature.

Other Bills
Bills in green are supported. Bills in red are opposed by the League. Bills in black the League is watching.

HB 1541 Nothing About Us Without Us. This bill requires that state task forces, work groups, and advisory committees include members from underrepresented populations with direct lived experience relevant to the issue being addressed.

Initiative 2113 Rolling Back Vehicle Pursuits Protections. This initiative would repeal evidence-based legislation enacted to protect the public against high-speed vehicle pursuits by law enforcement.

Bills That Are Not Moving Forward
Bills in green are supported. Bills in red are opposed by the League. Bills in black the League is watching.

HB 1062 Prohibiting the use of deception during interrogations.This bill originally established a presumption that statements obtained via intentional deception during a custodial interrogation would be inadmissible in court.  It has now been amended to simply require the Criminal Justice Training Commission to provide training to law enforcement personnel regarding noncoercive interrogation techniques.

HB 1087/SB 5135 Ending Long-Term Solitary Confinement. This bill recognizes that long-term solitary confinement constitutes torture under international law and causes severe psychological trauma. It requires at least 4 hours out of cell time for everyone, except in limited circumstances, and mandates that this time be used for meaningful programming such as education or treatment. The bill supports the Department of Corrections’ five-year plan to reduce solitary confinement by 90%.

HB 1268 Concerning Sentencing Enhancements. This bill eliminates certain sentencing enhancements relating to gangs and controlled substance violations and removes the requirement that multiple weapons enhancements be served consecutively.

HB 1325/SB 5451 Allowing Review of Long Sentences for Crimes Committed Before Age 25. Currently, people who committed crimes before age 18 can have lengthy sentences reviewed. This bill would increase the age from 18 to 25, recognizing that brain science shows that our brains do not become fully developed until age 25.

HB 1445 Attorney General Investigations and Reform. This bill gives the Attorney General’s Office the authority to investigate law enforcement and local corrections agencies that have engaged in systemic violations of the Washington constitution or state laws. 

HB 1479/SB 5559 Restricting Use of Restraint and Isolation of Students in Public Schools. This bill bans the use of isolation and mechanical and chemical restraints except when school resource officers are making arrests.

HB 1513/SB 5572 Improving Traffic Safety. This bill prevents law enforcement officers from pulling people over for violations that don’t impact safety, limits searches following traffic stops, and provides funding to help people fix violations.

HB 1579 Independent Prosecutions for Police Use of Deadly Force. This bill sets up an Independent Prosecutions Unit in the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute crimes involving the use of deadly force by police officers.

HB 1798 Earned Release Time for Good Behavior. This bill standardizes the allowable time off of a sentence for good behavior at up to 33 1/3% of a person’s sentence, subject to some exceptions. 

HB 1994 Authorizing Dismissal of Misdemeanor Charges. This bill authorizes the trial court to dismiss misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges where the defendant makes meaningful progress toward complying with court-ordered terms, conditions, or programs.

HB 2001/SB 6037 Judicial Discretion Act. This bill gives discretion to judges to reduce certain lengthy sentences upon a showing that the original sentence no longer serves the interests of justice.

HB 2030
Allowing Voting in Prison. This bill would narrow the definition of “infamous crime” to enable people who are currently incarcerated in prison to vote.

HB 2027/SB 5905
Requiring Sheriffs and Other Officers to Maintain Certification. There are several hiring and certification requirements that apply to “peace officers,” but those requirements have not specifically been imposed on sheriffs, marshals, police chiefs, reserve officers, and volunteers. This bill extends the requirements to these other types of law enforcement positions.

HB 2065/SB 5971 Eliminating Juvenile Offenses from Sentencing Range Calculations. Last year, the legislature passed HB 1324, which removed the requirement that juvenile offenses automatically be considered when calculating adult sentences. However, the legislature did not make the bill retroactive. This bill extends the application of HB 1324 to people who are currently incarcerated.

HB 2171 Financial Aid Grants for Incarcerated Students. Last year the federal government restored access to Pell grants for incarcerated students. This bill ensures that people incarcerated in Washington prisons have access to such grants. 

HB 2178 Establishing a Pathway off Lifetime Community Custody for People With Sex Offense Convictions. This bill is based on recommendations made by the Sex Offender Policy Board and allows people convicted of sex offenses to be released from community custody after five, ten, or fifteen years if certain conditions are met.

SB 5773
State Contributions to Public Defense Costs. Currently, the cost of providing public defenders falls overwhelmingly on counties. This bill would gradually increase the share paid by the state beginning with 10% in 2024 and working up to 50% by 2028.

SB 6044
Reducing Juvenile Access to Attorneys. This bill rolls back needed protections afforded to juveniles who are stopped for questioning by law enforcement officers, including the right to immediately talk to an attorney. 

SB 6021 Authorizing Free Phone Calls for People in Prison. This bill requires the Department of Corrections to provide free phone calls for incarcerated people, making it easier for them to stay in touch with friends and family and remain connected to the community.

SB 6189 Improving Jail Oversight. This bill adopts recommendations for the Joint Legislative Task Force on Jail Standards and provides for independent oversight of Washington’s jail system by a Jail Oversight Board within the Governor’s office.

How To Be Involved

  • If you are interested in a particular bill, use the links above to go to the webpage for that bill. These pages include staff summaries and reports including who testified PRO, CON, or OTHER on the bill, if there has been a public hearing. There is also information about how to access videos of hearings that have been held. 
  • Read and take action through the LWVWA Legislative Action Newsletter, distributed each Sunday during the legislative session.
  • You may also express your opinion on legislation with the LWVWA issue chairs. We will take your perspectives under consideration as we determine our support for legislation and prepare testimony. Please direct questions or comments to Heather Kelly, Criminal Justice Issue Chair. 
  • Join the LWVWA Criminal Justice Action group by emailing Heather Kelly or Deb Carstens.

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