Washington state has instituted a new process to allow individuals on active community supervision for certain drug possession convictions to directly petition Gov. Jay Inslee to commute their sentences.
This new path to commutations is intended to allow expedited relief for thousands of individuals following February’s State of Washington v. Blake decision, in which the Washington State Supreme Court declared Washington’s simple drug possession statute unconstitutional.
In a press release statement, Inslee said he is prepared to issue unconditional commutations for eligible petitioners to eliminate any remaining community supervision involving drug possession convictions that have been invalidated by the Washington Supreme Court, as well as any obligation to pay on related legal financial obligations.
Since the Washington v. Blake decision, state courts have issued orders to vacate a large number of causes that meet the criteria under the ruling. But many cases remain unresolved, and with courts backed up due to the pandemic, thousands of individuals with now-invalidated convictions have not been able to get into court to have those convictions vacated, according to the governor’s office.
“COVID has created countless challenges in our criminal justice system. And February’s Blake decision compounded those challenges,” Inslee said via written statement. “Though the State Supreme Court has invalidated the drug possession convictions of thousands of individuals, many of these individuals have not been able to get into court to have their convictions vacated and dismissed, even six months after the Supreme Court’s decision.”
In April, Inslee issued unconditional commutations to 18 individuals who were still in Department Of Corrections custody solely on since-invalidated convictions. Now, the Office of the Governor has partnered with DOC and Office of Public Defense to facilitate this new commutation process.
Recently, the governor’s office said the DOC began contacting eligible individuals on active community supervision to alert them to the new program and invite them to petition Inslee for clemency relief.
There are currently over 1,200 individuals who remain on active DOC community supervision, solely for drug possession convictions held invalid by the Washington State Supreme Court in Blake, according to the governor’s office.
Since the first completed petitions arrived at the Office of the Governor, Inslee has already issued over 100 unconditional commutations, with additional orders being issued daily.
“I am committed to doing what I can to try to remedy the situation and assist the courts who are doing what they can to get through this backlog of cases,” Inslee said.