A local criminal justice system that makes sense.
It is clear in Whatcom County that it is time for our community to come together for dialogue, learning, and supporting positive change in the local criminal justice system. The County has asked the voters twice to approve a tax for a new jail, and twice we have rejected it. It is time for us to figure out where to go from here.
The Whatcom Justice Network is committed to informing and influencing justice planning and policy, That means that we will work with our county leaders and elected representatives; we will support the work of the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Taskforce; and strive for collaboration and informed dialogue with decision-makers.
We are aligned with criminal justice reform initiatives, such as efforts to reform bail and create pre-trial risk assessments, efforts to create robust pretrial services and true diversion from the jail, and efforts to increase treatment options for individuals who suffer from alcohol or substance disorders or mental illness.
We support the work of locating and/or renovating, or building a reasonably budgeted, right-size jail. We support the County's listening sessions underway and will work to hold our county officials accountable to a transparent planning process. We will help answer the questions - who should be in our jail, and what is our jail for?
And finally, we will do the work required to make positive change happen. That means research, advocacy, and building a network.
That's where you come in.
We can't do this work alone - we believe that if you want to go fast, go alone - and if you want to go far, go together. We invite you to join us in these efforts and help us get this right for our community.
How we will get there.
Inform and influence justice planning and policy
We are committed to working with our local leaders and advocates to support evidence-based solutions for reform.
Support initiatives aligned with Criminal Justice Reform
These include Bail Reform, Pretrial Services, diversion from jail, and treatment for substance abuse, alcohol, and mental health.
Hold local leaders accountable
We support the work of locating/renovating or building the right size jail, under budget and to holding county officials accountable to a transparent planning process for our community.
Do the work to make change happen, in community
Research. Advocacy. Connection. Building a network.
Cook county, Il
"under an order from the chief judge, judges are now prohibited from detaining people who are not a public-safety risk in jail on bonds they cannot afford. The new system now requires judges to evaluate a defendant's financial circumstances, in addition to risk level and criminal history, before determining whether and how much bond should be set. As of this March 31, approximately six months after the order was implemented, the number of people being held in the county's jail had dropped 20 percent."
"In Philadelphia, for example, the First Judicial District and other criminal justice leaders are reviewing data on continuances -- which postpone pending court actions -- in felony cases to understand what causes court processing delays, which lengthen the time defendants are held in jail. Based on the data, Philadelphia stakeholders plan to implement strategies to reduce delays; the goal is to reduce the length of time that people facing felony charges are held by 30 percent.
Harris County, Tx
"Harris County, Texas, launched its Responsive Interventions for Change Docket in 2016. This initiative focuses on nonviolent felony defendants with substance-abuse issues, redirecting them away from jail and into community-based alternatives. County officials are considering it for other types of felonies as well, such as driving under the influence and selected property offenses. While the new approach's impact on the jail population has yet to be parsed out, 85 percent of the 7,188 drug-related cases filed in the RIC Docket were diverted from jail as of this April."
Read the report.
48 pages of what we, as a community, think of our criminal justice system.
Watch the video
Councilmember Buchanan gives us the history of the jail from 1984 to now.