As Nina Shapiro wrote a few weeks ago, Washington's budget crunch has accelerated the state's drug policy reform by spurring money-saving proposals for shorter sentences for drug offenses. Rep. Roger Goodman (D, Kirkland) is taking things a step further with a bill he introduced today.
House Bil 2077 would make those convicted of non-violent, non-sex-related felonies that carry sentences of a year or less eligible for delayed sentencing. A delayed sentence is essentially a year of probation: if the offender meets the conditions (stays out of trouble, remains in the County, avoids positive urinalysis results), (s)he will never have to go to jail.
"Cobbling something like this together in the middle of the session is not the way I like to legislate," says Goodman. "But this is an urgent matter. We have got to find some cost savings, including in criminal justice."
This year's environment is a significant contrast to last year's, when the Department of Corrections gave early release to several inmates who later committed violent crimes, resulting in public uproar. "Criminal justice reform was just off the table," says Goodman.
His bill to allow for non-jail sentencing alternatives and to count inpatient substance abuse treatment as time served died that session. He has re-introduced it this year. (This is a different bill than HB 2077, as it offers an alternative sentence instead of a delayed one.)
"I think it's going to fly through," says Goodman of the alternative sentencing bill. "This is about saving money and incentivizing treatment."
As for HB 2077, Goodman anticipates some opposition. "DOC doesn't want to supervise these low-risk people," he explains. "But it would save millions of dollars."