Ensuring Social Justice
Criminal Justice

Eradicate racial bias from the criminal justice system to uphold principles of fairness and due process of law.

Issue Team Chair: Deb Carstens, dcarstens@lwvwa.org(206) 295-9529
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2020 Legislative Session Wrap Up

(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)

This year we continued to support efforts to make our criminal justice system more equitable at each step of the process, beginning with arrest/pretrial detention, to sentencing and prison, and then to re-entry into society following release from prison. We also focused on issues surrounding the juvenile justice system. The legislature passed several important bills in these areas during the 2020 session, including legislation that (1) reduces the penalties for failure to appear at court hearings (HB 2231), (2) limits the use of private prisons and requires a study regarding their continued use (HB 2576/SB 6442), (3) creates a pilot program to streamline the process for reviewing and vacating criminal convictions (HB 2793), and (4) prohibits the use of juvenile solitary confinement (HB 2277) There is still more work to be done, however—bills banning the death penalty and automatically restoring voting rights to those convicted of felonies did not pass this year.

Click on Bill # for detailed information.  See UPDATES below.

Bills the League Supported That Have Been Signed Into Law

  • HB 2277 Prohibits the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. UPDATE: HB 2277 was signed by the Governor on April 3.  
  • HB 2576  / SB 6442  Eliminates the use of private prisons in Washington, subject to certain limited exceptions.  UPDATE:  HB 2576 was signed by the Governor on April 2. An amendment substantially revised the scope of the bill, which now requires the Department of Corrections to study private prisons instead of prohibiting them. SB 6442 was signed by the Governor on April 2. The bill now prohibits the Department of Corrections from entering into a contract with a private correctional facility for the transfer or placement of offenders.
  • 2HB 2793 Creates a court-driven process for reviewing and vacating criminal convictions beginning in 2022. Under current law, individuals must petition the court to have their convictions vacated—a complicated and expensive process that many are unaware of. Under HB 2793, the Clean Slate Act, the Administrative Office of the Courts must develop a process to review criminal convictions and determine whether they should be vacated. UPDATE:  Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the bill on April 3, likely due to budget constraints resulting from the impact of the Coronavirus on the state economy. The Senate version of the bill is substantially watered down and provides only for a pilot program and study.

    Bills the League Watched That Did Not Pass

    • HB 2292 SSB 6228 Automatically restores voting rights for people who are no longer in prison regardless of whether they have completed their term of community custody (parole) or paid their financial obligations. UPDATE: Following a contentious hearing on the Senate floor, SSB 6228 was withdrawn from consideration and did not make it out of the Senate by the Feb. 19 deadline. HB 2292 did not pass out of the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee by the Feb. 7 deadline.
    • SB 6153  Reforms the law criminalizing Driving While License Suspended in the Third Degree (DWLS3), which generally involves driving with a license that has been suspended for secondary reasons such as failure to pay a fine or appear in court. Currently, DWLS3 is the most commonly charged crime in Washington and disproportionately impacts poor people, young people, and people of color. UPDATE: SB 6153 did not pass out of the Senate law & Justice Committee by the February 7 deadline.
    • SB 5339  Abolishes capital punishment in response to the 2018 Washington State Supreme Court in State v. Gregory holding that the death penalty is racially biased and unconstitutional.   UPDATE: SB 5339 did not get a vote on the House floor by the March 6 deadline.
    • HB 2220  Specifies the circumstances under which a school may deny the volunteer application of a parent or guardian who has been convicted of a crime and describes the process the school must use to determine whether a criminal conviction is grounds to deny a volunteer application. UPDATE: HB 2220 did not pass out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee by the March 2 deadline.

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