Ensuring Social Justice
Criminal Justice

Address the impact of systemic racism and advocate for a criminal justice system that is equitable, transparent, and evidence-based.

Issue Team Chair: Deb Carstens, dcarstens@lwvwa.org(206) 295-9529
 DOWNLOAD the Criminal Justice Issue Paper
Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

Right Now in Criminal Justice

(Interested in the 2020 Session Recap? Click Here)


2020 opened our eyes to the need for widespread police reform. The League of Women Voters of the US acknowledged the necessity of addressing this issue with a Resolution passed at the national convention calling for members to advocate “against systemic racism in the justice system and, at a minimum, for preventing excessive force and brutality by law enforcement.” Police reform will be a top priority for the 2021 legislature, and legislators are introducing bills in a number of different areas including:

  • Police Accountability
    • decertify officers who have engaged in serious misconduct,
    • enable people who have been harmed by policy misconduct to recover damages
    • create an independent statewide body to investigate/prosecute police use of force
    • prevent law enforcement unions from using collective bargaining of their contracts to shield officers from accountability for misconduct
  • Police Tactics
    • prohibit unnecessarily violent police tactics such as chokeholds and no-knock warrants
    • strengthen de-escalation requirements mandated by I-940

Other issues to be addressed this year include addressing substance use disorders as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue, automatically restoring the right to vote to people who have been released from prison, and abolishing the death penalty.

Bills We Support

SB 5047: Abolishes the death penalty in response to the Washington State Supreme Court decision in State v. Gregory recognizing that the death penalty is racially-biased and unconstitutional.

 STATUS UPDATE: Assigned to Senate Law and Justice Committee.

SB 5051/HB 1082: Promotes public trust and confidence in the criminal justice system by (1) improving the process to decertify peace and corrections officers who have engaged in serious misconduct, (2) requiring law enforcement agencies to report misconduct to the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC), and (3) requiring a public database containing information about all conduct investigated by the CJTC.

 STATUS UPDATE: The House Public Safety Committee held a hearing on HB 1082 on Jan. 15. A public hearing on SB 5051 is scheduled for Jan. 18 at 9:30 in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

 ACTION ALERT: Before Jan. 18 at 8:30, sign in to support SB 5051 (select Law and Justice Committee and 1/18/21 hearing from the dropdown menus at the top, then click on SB5051 and click on “I would like my position noted for the legislative record).

HB 1078/SB 5086: Automatically restores the right to vote for all people who are out of prison.

 STATUS UPDATE:HB 1078 is scheduled for Executive Session in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee at 10:00 on Jan. 21. SB 5086 has been referred to the Senate State Government and Elections Committee.

 ACTION ALERT: Click on our Action Alert to ask your representatives to support HB 1078.

Bills the League is Watching

HB 1054: Places restrictions on the use of certain tactics and equipment used by peace officers and law enforcement agencies including neck restraints and chokeholds, police dogs, military equipment, and vehicular pursuits.

 STATUS UPDATE: Executive Session scheduled Jan. 19 at 8:00 in the House Public Safety Committee.

HB 1202: Creates a private right of action for people harmed by misconduct, enables police departments to be held liable for negligently hiring, training, supervising, or disciplining officers involved in misconduct, and limits the use of the qualified immunity defense.

 STATUS UPDATE: Referred to House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.

SB 5134: Prohibits collective bargaining agreements covering law enforcement officers from including certain provisions related to discipline and oversight.

 STATUS UPDATE: Public hearing in Senate Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs Committee on Jan. 14.

How You Can Be Involved

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