2016 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference
Laws affect ability of people released from jail to find jobs and escape debt
|Phil Tyler discusses bills on deadly use of force and body cameras.|
Layne Pavey of Smart Justice Spokane and Phil Tyler, vice president of the Spokane NAACP, pointed out in a workshop on criminal justice at the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference that once people in prison serve their time, go through rehabilitation and rejoin society, they find it hard to move forward.
“We need white people who think they are unaffected by the high rate of incarceration of black people to know that they are affected, because the country spends $80 billion on a corrections system that does not correct,” she said. “We need to speak up.”
Layne said most people who have been in prison can’t find jobs because most job applications have a box that anyone who has ever been convicted of a crime has to check. When or why they were in prison does not matter.
In prison, Layne found God, went through counseling and found hope in herself. She decided to be a mental health worker.
“I had no idea of the barriers I would face after serving time for a nonviolent drug offense,” she said.
“White privilege and my father helped me find work,” she said.
“The system of mass incarceration creates an impasse, because people can be excluded just for having a criminal background,” she said.
Layne became a mental health clinician with a contractor who did not have a box. She presented her qualifications before telling him.
Smart Justice Spokane advocates for Fair Chance Hiring that calls employers to look at qualifications first, so they can consider applicants without the stigma of a criminal record.
Before the state legislature are bills to ban the box and establish “certificates of restoration of opportunity” that prohibit disqualifying qualified applicants for licenses to practice a profession or business solely based on a criminal history.
There is also legislation to limit legal financial obligations from court fees and restitution for victims, such as not starting charges of 12 percent interest when a person enters prison. After release, many are jailed again for failure to pay, costing taxpayers for extra time in jail.
Phil called on people to take responsibility by voting, registering others to vote and educating them.
He spoke on two issues:
• “HB 2907 provides guidance to law enforcement officers on the use of deadly force,” he said. “Officers can use it only if they reasonably believe there is an imminent threat of serious harm to themselves or other persons. It also ensures officers are better equipped to handle difficult interactions with the community and increases trust.”
The current law holds a police officer accountable only if deadly force is used with malice or evil intent, which are hard to prove.
• HB 2362 on body cameras falls short of standards sought. HB 1908 is an alternative, proposing that a task force look at issues of police accountability beyond just body cameras.
“We think a task force is the right approach given the legislature’s failure to enact real, robust regulations,” he added since the conference. “It also ensures community stakeholders have a seat at the table.”
Phil urged people to educate themselves and then to call, email or write their legislators.
For information, call 838-7400 for Layne or 954-8392 for Phil, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © March 2016 - The Fig Tree