OLYMPIA - Gov. Jay Inslee has signed an executive order launching a comprehensive study of the state’s criminal justice system that will identify ways to address growing pressures on the state’s prison system and to boost public safety.
The executive order, signed this past Tuesday, establishes an inter-branch, bipartisan justice reinvestment task force to guide the study.
“Washington is a recognized leader in innovative and effective criminal justice policy, and we’ve seen how smart investments in our system can pay off,” Inslee said.
“We’re forecasted to need another 1,000 prison beds by 2018, and I think this is the right time to take a step back, take a deep look at our current system and talk about opportunities to effectively leverage our public safety dollars,” Inslee said.
Washington’s corrections facilities now operate at 2 percent over capacity. That number is expected to swell by 9 percent between 2013 and 2023. This projected prison population growth would require between $387 million and $481 million in construction and operating expenses.
“Keeping our residents safe is a top priority, and we can do more to increase safety in Washington,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler.
“In 2012, Washington had the third-highest property crime rate in the country. We have to understand the unique challenges in our state so we can develop more effective policies that will reduce crime and better protect the Washington public,” said Schoesler.
The task force is comprised of 21 representatives from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, in addition to key state and local criminal justice stakeholders.
The task force will be led by Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, and Nick Brown, general counsel for the governor’s office.
“There is bipartisan agreement that we need smart strategies to address our prison capacity issues,” said House Speaker Frank Chopp. “A comprehensive picture of our criminal justice system will be of tremendous value as we discuss our options moving forward.”
The task force will reach out to a broad range of interested groups on the state and county level, including superior court judges, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, parole board members, law enforcement officials, victims and community treatment providers.