Olympia, WA – Gov. Jay Inslee and a bipartisan group of state legislators today announced a comprehensive proposal to reduce the state’s high rate of property crime, hold offenders more accountable on supervision and avert growth in the state’s prison population.
“We are always looking for ways to make sure we’re making best use of our public safety dollars. Over the last seven months, a taskforce comprised of legislators and stakeholder representatives from around the state convened to examine our state criminal justice data and identify strategies to be more effective at reducing crime,” Inslee said. “The taskforce found that our biggest opportunity is tackling the unacceptably high amount of property crime in Washington. Through implementation of these proposed reforms, we would reduce the state’s high property crime rate, strengthen law enforcement and supervision to hold offenders accountable, and save our state millions of dollars every year in future corrections costs.”
Last month, a broad taskforce of legislators, state agencies, public safety officials and stakeholders with a comprehensive view of the state’s criminal justice system endorsed a policy framework to reduce property crime, deter recidivism and oversee property offenders with supervision and treatment. A full report, released today by CSG Justice Center, outlines these analyses and findings that resulted from the justice reinvestment process.
The proposal sets a goal for the state of reducing property crime 15 percent by 2021. In 2013, Washington had the highest property crime rate in the nation.
Washington sentences repeat property offenders to confinement two to three times longer than average, compared to other states with sentencing guidelines. But Washington has long had a policy of not supervising these offenders after confinement, unlike other states that use supervision as a primary way of holding them accountable. Studies show supervision and treatment are the most effective methods to reduce reoffending.
Under these proposals, the state would require a mandatory period of post-release supervision and treatment for property offenders, and would invest in policing strategies to deter crime.
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy found the proposals would reduce crime by 1,000 victimizations annually and reoffending by 13 percent, compared with the status quo.
Over six years, the proposals are projected to avert up to $290 million in corrections spending.
“The justice reinvestment process allowed us to learn how we can directly tackle the unsustainable growth in our prison population,” said Nicholas Brown, General Counsel to Governor Jay Inslee and co-chair of the taskforce. “Our current approach of simply sentencing repeat property offenders to longer and longer terms of incarceration clearly isn’t working. Other states use a period of supervision following confinement to require people to attend treatment and reoffend less in the community. This new approach embraces what the research clearly tells us works to reduce crime and recidivism.”
Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam), co-chair of the committee, said the proposals continued the state’s commitment to evidence-based approaches to public safety.
“I’ve always said I want to be tough on crime, by preventing it. This package, if correctly implemented and funded, has the potential to dramatically reduce our property crime rate.”
By emphasizing supervision for approximately 2,000 repeat property offenders, and by funding ways to reduce recidivism, the changes would also avert growth currently projected in Washington’s prison population.
“Due to the good work of our law enforcement agencies, our state has a low violent crime rate in comparison to other states,” said Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick). “I know our law enforcement officers are essential to help solving the property crime problem in our state. This package would help enhance our efforts to reduce crime by providing local enforcement agencies with additional resources to dedicate to preventing property crimes from happening in the first place. By preventing crimes, we prevent victimizations, and there’s no better outcome than that.”
The work of the taskforce was driven by members of all three branches of government, including the state’s Chief Justice Barbara Madsen.
“The justice reinvestment process required input from all three branches of government to find a solution to make our communities safer,” Madsen said. “By changing our current approach, we have an opportunity to make our justice system more effective by addressing the root causes of crime and reinvesting the resources associated with recidivism in prevention.”
As part of the Justice Reinvestment approach, a projected $80 million of the $290 million in averted costs would be required to be reinvested in the expansion of supervision and treatment of property offenders, as well as in innovative policing strategies to deter crime, financial assistance for victims and new incentive grants to bolster more cost-effective pretrial practices in the counties.
“In order for the Taskforce’s proposed strategies to succeed, the state must commit to fully fund new investments in offender supervision and programming,” said Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim.
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), has provided on-the-ground technical assistance in collaboration with state leaders to develop a policy framework to manage the projected growth of the prison population.
In early 2014, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle), Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D-Medina), Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville), Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, and Washington Department of Corrections Secretary Bernard Warner requested technical assistance from CSG Justice Center to employ a data-driven “justice reinvestment” approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest a portion of savings in strategies that can reduce recidivism and improve public safety.
The full report from the Justice Reinvestment process can be found here.
To learn more about the justice reinvestment strategy in Washington and other states, please visit http://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.