Ensuring Social 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, (206) 295-9529
Right Now in Criminal Justice
This year opened our eyes to the need for widespread police reform. The League of Women Voters of the United States 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 was a top priority for the 2021 Legislature, and legislators introduced bills in a number of different areas including accountability for misconduct and permissible police tactics. Many of these bills passed (see below under Bills the League Supports). As a result, chokeholds, neck restraints, and no knock warrants are banned, police officers can only use deadly force when necessary to protect against an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death, and officers who witness excessive use of force by another officer must intervene and report to their supervisor. In addition, a statewide office has been created to conduct independent investigations of the use of deadly force by police, and it will be easier to decertify policy officers who engage in serious misconduct.
The legislature also passed legislation that will automatically restore the right to vote to people who are out of prison, ban private prisons, and create prison to postsecondary education pathways.
There is still more work to be done next session—bills that would have created a state cause of action for people injured by police misconduct, standardized the earned time for early release provisions, banned solitary confinement, and reformed sentencing provisions for young adults did not pass. Overall, though, this was a very successful year for criminal justice reform!
Bills the League Supports
HB 1044 Recognizing that postsecondary education in prisons improves safety and decreases recidivism, this bill expands opportunities for such education and requires the Department of Corrections to accommodate those with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and cognitive impairments.
Passed HB 1044 was delivered to the governor on April 22.
HB 1054 Places restrictions on the use of certain tactics and equipment used by peace officers and law enforcement agencies including neck restraints and choke holds, military equipment, and vehicular pursuits.
Passed HB 1054 was delivered to the governor on April 26.
HB 1078 Automatically restores the right to vote for all people who are out of prison.
Passed HB 1078 was signed by the governor on April 7.
HB 1090 Bans private prisons, subject to limited exceptions, and provides that private detention facilities (i.e., the Northwest Detention Center) operating pursuant to a valid contract may remain in operation for the duration of that contract but not thereafter.
Passed HB1090 was signed by the governor on April 14.
HB 1140 Requires law enforcement to provide juveniles with access to an attorney before waiver of the juvenile’s constitutional rights.
Passed HB 1140 was delivered to the governor on April 22.
HB 1267 Creates an office of independent investigations to conduct investigations of use of force by law enforcement officers.
Passed HB 1267 was delivered to the governor on April 22.
HB 1310 Adopts a statewide de-escalation standard and limits the use of deadly force only as a last resort when necessary to protect against an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to the officer or another person.
Passed HB 1310 was delivered to the governor on April 26.
SB 5051 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, and (3) requiring a public database containing information about all conduct investigated by the CJTC.