Category Archives: Department of Corrections

Criminal Justice Bills Passed & Failed in the Senate

2019 Criminal Justice Reform | ACLU West Virginia

Several bills recently passed and failed in the Senate, covering a wide array of issues related to criminal justice. These bills all now head to the House  in the coming weeks as the legislative session reaches month two. Here’s a  summary of some of the bills that passed and failed.


Senate Bill 6442 would ban the operation of private, for-profit prisons in the state, as well as prohibiting the Department of Corrections (DOC) from contracting with these prisons. The bill also limits the circumstances under which the state can transfer an inmate from a Washington facility to an out-of-state private prison or detention facility.

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According to the text of the bill, the legislature found that for-profit prisons prioritize shareholder profits over the provision of health care, safety and nutrition to inmates, among other basic human needs, and that the operation of private prisons runs counter to the state’s mandate to ensure health, safety and welfare of those incarcerated in the state’s criminal justice system. If the bill passes, Washington would join 22 other states in banning for profit prisons.

Senate Bill 5488 would allow judges greater discretion when deciding cases involving adult defendants who are charged with committing a crime while under age 18. The bill grants judges the authority to consider the defendant’s age, lack of sophistication, susceptibility to peer pressure and age at the time the crime was committed.

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Judges overseeing these types of cases could refrain from imposing the mandatory sentencing requirements after considering the circumstances surrounding a defendant’s youth at the time the crime was committed, allowing the judge to impose a lesser sentence than what law requires.


SB 6228, also called the “Felony Voting Rights Bill,” introduced legislation to automatically restore the voting rights of convicted felons when they are released from prison. However, the bill died unexpectedly in the Washington state Senate Wednesday. Majority Democrats abruptly ended debate on the controversial bill Wednesday evening when they realized they lacked the 25 votes needed to pass the measure.

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“We are extremely disappointed that the voting rights restoration bill did not pass,” said the ACLU of Washington in a statement Wednesday evening. “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and the time to tear down these barriers is long past due.”

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an experienced attorney is the first and best step toward achieving justice.

Books Banned in WA Prisons

WA Reverses Prison Book Ban After Failed Defense – Comic Book Legal Defense  Fund

Excellent article by reporter of discusses how the Washington State Department of Corrections adopted a policy which disallows books to be donated to prisons via nonprofit organizations.

“So quietly, in fact, that one of the largest nonprofits that works to get donated materials to prisoners was taken by surprise to discover the change,” reports Ms. Jensen. “They weren’t informed before it was implemented.”

Fortunately, Books to Prisoners, a nonprofit organization located in Seattle, is ready to fight it.

One of the reasons noted for this sudden policy change is the lack of staff in mail rooms to determine whether or not materials sent are appropriate or whether they’re hiding contraband. Likewise, additional funding and resources are not available to the Washington State Library (WSL).

“This highlights exactly why Books to Prisoners and similar nonprofits do the work that they do — these facilities are underfunded and that lack of funding impacts the individuals who use those books to improve themselves and their own literacy,” says Jensen. “These book donations, which are thoroughly inspected by those at the nonprofit for suitability, fill a critical role in helping those incarcerated who otherwise lack access to vital educational tools.”

Books to Prisoners has sent free books to prisoners across the country since 1973. They note in a tweet “Attempted bans pop up sometimes, most recently by Pennsylvania DOC in 2018, always using same vague “safety” justification. In 45 years, our books have never had contraband.” They added, “Given that we’ve sent books without issue since 1973, and currently send to 12,000 unique prisoners across almost every state in the country each year, it would be bewildering if after 46 years of work as an award-winning nonprofit we decided to start transporting contraband.”

According to Jensen, prison libraries are severely underfunded; and there’s a lack of staff as well. And as Books to Prisoners notes, “Furthermore, the reason that we send books directly to the hands of prisoners is that libraries are chronically underfunded and understaffed.” Barring access to literature, which is what this policy does, hinders those who need it most.

Other states, including New York, have tried similar bans and they’ve been rescinded. The ACLU has stepped in in similar attempted book bans in prison as well.  Criminal justice reform includes ensuring that those who are incarcerated have rights to literature and education, so steps like these by the Washington Department of Corrections are but steps backwards. To combat recidivism, literacy is one of the crucial steps forward, and yet, situations like these further hinder rehabilitation and self-development of those who most need it.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Probation Searches

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in State v. Cornwell, the WA Supreme Court held that Article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution requires a nexus between the property searched and the suspected probation violation. Here, there was no nexus between the defendant’s failure to report to DOC and the car which the defendant was driving.


In September 2013, petitioner Curtis Lament Cornwell was placed on probation. His judgment and sentence allowed his probation officer to impose conditions of his release, which included the following provision:

“I am aware that I am subject to search and seizure of my person, residence, automobile, or other personal property if there is reasonable cause on the part of the Department of Corrections to believe that I have violated the conditions/requirements or instructions above.”

Cornwell failed to report to the Department of Corrections (DOC) in violation of his probation, and DOC subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest.

Cornwell first came to the attention of Tacoma Police Department Officer Randy Frisbie and CCO Thomas Grabski because of a distinctive Chevrolet Monte Carlo observed outside a house suspected of being a site for drug sales and prostitution. An officer conducted a records check and determined he had an outstanding warrant.

In late November 2014, Officer Frisbie testified that he intended to stop the vehicle because he believed Cornwell was driving it and he had an outstanding warrant. He did not initiate the stop based on any belief that the car contained drugs or a gun or because he observed a traffic violation.

Before Officer Frisbie could activate his police lights, the car pulled into a driveway and Cornwell began to exit it. Cornwell ignored Officer Frisbie’s orders to stay in the vehicle, and Officer Frisbie believed Cornwell was attempting to distance himself from the car. Officer Frisbie then ordered Cornwell to the ground. Cornwell started to lower himself in apparent compliance before jumping up and running. Cornwell was apprehended after both officers deployed their tasers. He had $1,573 on his person at the time of arrest.

After securing Cornwell, Officer Patterson called CCO Grabski to the scene. Upon arrival, CCO Grabski searched the Monte Carlo. He described the basis for his search as follows:

“When people are in violation of probation, they’re subject to search. So he’s driving a vehicle, he has a felony warrant for his arrest by DOC, which is in violation of his probation. He’s driving the vehicle, he has the ability to access to enter the vehicle, so I’m searching the car to make sure there’s no further violations of his probation.”

In this case, CCO Grabski found a black nylon bag sitting on the front seat of the car. The bag contained oxycodone, amphetamine and methamphetamine pills, sim cards, and small spoons. A cell phone was also found in the car.

Cornwell moved pursuant to CrR 3.6 to suppress the evidence obtained during the vehicle search. The trial court denied the motion.

A jury convicted Cornwell of three counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and one count of resisting arrest. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. The WA Supreme Court granted review on the issue of whether the search of the car Cornwell was driving an unlawful search.


The WA Supreme Court held that individuals on probation are not entitled to the full protection of the Constitution. The Court reasoned that probationers have a reduced expectations of privacy because they are serving their time outside the prison walls. Accordingly, it is constitutionally permissible for a CCO to search an individual based only on a well-founded or reasonable suspicion of a probation violation, rather than a search warrant supported by probable cause.

However, the Court also also reasoned that the goals of the probation process can be accomplished with rules and procedures that provide both the necessary societal protections as well as the necessary constitutional protections.

“Limiting the scope of a CCO’s search to property reasonably believed to have a nexus with the suspected probation violation protects the privacy and dignity of individuals on probation while still allowing the State ample supervision,” said the Court. “We therefore hold that article I, section 7 permits a warrantless search of the property of an individual on probation only where there is a nexus between the property searched and the alleged probation violation.”

The Court reasoned that the CCO’s search of Cornwell’s car exceeded its lawful scope.

“While CCO Grabski may have suspected Cornwell violated other probation conditions, the only probation violation supported by the record is Cornwell’s failure to report,” said the Court. It also reasoned that CCO Grabski’s testimony at the suppression hearing confirmed that he had no expectation that the search would produce evidence of Cornwell’s failure to report.

“In this case, the search of Cornwell’s vehicle was unlawful because there was no nexus between the search and his suspected probation violation of failure to report to DOC,” concluded the Court. “The evidence seized during the search should have been suppressed. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals and Cornwell’s convictions.”

Contact my office if you, a friend or family member were subject to an unlawful search. It is imperative to hire experienced and competent defense counsel to suppress evidence of an unlawful search as quickly as possible.

Skagit County Jail: Who Will Provide Inmate Medical Care?

According to Stone’s article, Skagit County currently employs jail medical staff itself, saving money over contracting for services while accepting sole responsibility for union negotiations and potential malpractice lawsuits. At an estimated $1.9 million a year, county-provided services at the new jail would be cheaper than contracting with NaphCare, a private, Alabama-based jail healthcare company that has expressed interest in working with the county.

Private-sector estimates come in at about $2.1 million, Neill Hoyson said. Both the county and private-sector numbers factor in an expected increase in inmate population at the larger jail – with 400 beds, the new jail is much larger than the current 83-bed facility.

Both plans would provide for about 12 full-time equivalent positions. Neill Hoyson said county staff recommend hiring a consultant to evaluate the different models, but that recommendation was not discussed by the commissioners.

Dr. Marc Stern, an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, told the commissioners Tuesday that by spending about $3,000 to $4,000 per inmate per year, Skagit County currently falls on the lower end of the spectrum for jail medical care. The new plans would increase that number to about $8,000.

Jail inmates tend to have more health issues than the general population, he said. Studies indicate that investments in medical care for inmates tend to save money for the public health system when those inmates return to the community, he said.

However, Mr. Stern, stakeholders from the jail and the commissioners were skeptical about privatization.

“I think privatization is more expensive,” Stern said. “(To make a profit), it has to be.”

Chief of Corrections Charlie Wend said he has worked to build relationships between the jail and mental health and drug addiction treatment facilities in the community. Those relationships may not carry over to a private provider, he said.

“There are just some functions of government that should stay with the government,” Wend said.

However, Stern anticipated NaphCare would have an easier time hiring medical staff because it would pay higher wages. The county has said it’s had trouble with staffing because it can’t offer competitive wages. Skagit County’s Jail Finance Committee, made up of city and county representatives, meets Sept. 20, and the commissioners are expected to come to the table with a suggestion.

My opinion? Granted, I know very little about the discussion and what the real issues are. My knee-jerk reaction, however, is that privatization is not the answer. In Prison Healthcare: Medical Costs, Privitization, and Importane of Expertise, author Kip Piper discusses the pros and cons of outsourcing medical care to prison inmates. I’m confident those involved will make the right decision.

Overbroad Parolee Searches

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In State v. Livingston, the WA Court of Appeals Division II held that evidence collected during a warrantless search of the defendant’s vehicle following the defendant’s arrest on a D.O.C. warrant is only admissible if there is a nexus between the community custody violation and the searched property.

On May 29, 2014, DOC Officer Thomas Grabski observed a person, later identified as Darian Livingston, who he recognized as having an outstanding DOC arrest warrant; Livingston was washing a vehicle alone at a car wash. Officer Grabski called for assistance, and two more officers arrived to assist him.

When the additional officers arrived, Livingston was talking with a person on a motorcycle. The person on the motorcycle drove away when the officers approached. Livingston was the only person near the vehicle. After confirming Livingston’s identity and the warrant, the officers arrested Livingston.

The officers then asked Livingston about the vehicle he had been washing. He said it belonged to his girlfriend who had gone to a nearby store, but he later admitted that his girlfriend was in Seattle and could not pick up the vehicle.

Livingston also admitted that he regularly drove the vehicle and that he had placed the key on the motorcycle when he first saw the officers. At the time of his arrest, Livingston was on active DOC probation. The DOC warrant issued in his name said there was “reasonable cause to believe Mr. Livingston] violated a condition of community custody.

DOC Officers Grabski and Joshua Boyd conducted a “compliance search” of the vehicle. When they conducted the search of the vehicle, the officers did not have any information about the nature of the violation that triggered the issuance of the DOC warrant.

Inside the vehicle, the officers found mail and other documents with Livingston’s name on them, a single pill, and a prescription bottle containing eight pills. In the vehicle’s trunk, the officers found a black backpack containing scented oils, a loaded .40 caliber handgun, a box of ammunition, and more mail addressed to Livingston. During booking, Livingston revealed that he was also carrying a baggie of cocaine on his person.

The State charged Livingston with first degree unlawful possession of a firearm (count I), unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (cocaine) (count II), bail jumping (count III), unlawful possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone) (count IV), and unlawful possession of a controlled substance (hydrocodone/dihydrocodeinone) (count V). Before trial, Livingston moved to suppress the evidence discovered during the vehicle search. The judge denied Livingston’s motion. He appealed.

Livingston argued that the trial court erred in deciding that the vehicle search was lawful under RCW 9.94A.631(1) because the officers had a reasonable belief that he had violated a community custody condition or sentencing requirement. Instead, he asked the Court of Appeals to follow State v. Jardinez and hold that to justify such a search, the property searched must relate to the violation that the community custody officer (CCO) believed had occurred.

First, the Court of Appeals reasoned that both article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibit warrantless searches unless an exception exists. Washington law recognizes, however, that probationers and parolees have a diminished right of privacy that permits warrantless searches based on reasonable cause to believe that a violation of probation has occurred. This reduced expectation of privacy for parolees is recognized in RCW 9.94A.631(1), which states,

If there is reasonable cause to believe that an offender has violated a condition or requirement of the sentence, a [CCO] may require an offender to submit to a search and seizure of the offender’s person, residence, automobile, or other personal property.

Second, the Court reasoned that pursuant to State v. Jardinez, there must be a nexus between the violation and the searched property. In Jardinez, the defendant’s parole officer searched his iPhone for no reason and found evidence linking Mr. Jardinez to criminal behavior. He was charged and convicted. On his appeal, the Court of Appeals examined the following official comment from the Sentencing Guidelines Commission (Commission) on RCW 9.94A.631(1):

“The Commission intends that [CCOs] exercise their arrest powers sparingly, with due consideration for the seriousness of the violation alleged and the impact of confinement on jail population. Violations may be charged by the [CCO] upon notice of violation and summons, without arrest. The search and seizure authorized by this section should relate to the violation which the [CCO] believes to have occurred.”

Noting that Washington courts “have repeatedly relied on the Commission’s comments as indicia of the legislature’s intent,” Division Three concluded that the italicized portion of this comment “demands a nexus between the searched property and the alleged crime.” Following Jardinez, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred when it failed to consider whether there was a nexus between the violation and the searched property.

With that, the Court affirmed Mr. Livingston’s bail jumping conviction, count III, and his unlawful possession of a controlled substance conviction charged as count II. However, the court reversed the order denying Livingston’s motion to suppress the evidence discovered in the vehicle search and remanded Livingston’s case back to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

My opinion? Good decision. i blogged about Jardinez in another post, and found that opinion compelling as well. Excellent use of prior precedents and stare decisis.

Jails Aren’t Liable to Control Released Inmates.

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In Binschus v. Skagit County, the WA Supreme Court held a jail’s duty to supervise and control inmates during incarceration does not include a general duty to somehow prevent inmates from committing crimes after they are lawfully released from incarceration.

Isaac Zamora was incarcerated at Skagit County Jail for nonviolent crimes from April 4, 2008, until May 29, 2008, when he was transferred to Okanogan County Corrections Center. Zamora then served the rest of his sentence at Okanogan County Corrections Center and was released on August 2, 2008.

On September 2, 2008, Zamora had a psychotic episode and went on a shooting spree in Skagit County. He ultimately killed six people and injured several others.

Some of his victims and their families sued a number of parties, including Skagit County. The plaintiffs alleged that Skagit County failed to exercise ordinary and reasonable care while Zamora was incarcerated in Skagit County Jail several months prior to the shooting.

The trial judge granted summary judgment to Skagit County and ultimately dismissed the causes of action against the Skagit County jail. The Court of Appeals reversed. Ultimately, the case was appealed to the WA Supreme Court.

The Court reasoned that, as a general rule, people and institutions are not responsible for preventing a person from physically harming others. However, there is an exception when a special relation exists between the actor and the third person which imposes a duty upon the actor to control the third person’s conduct.

Although the  “duty to control” relationship naturally extends between a jail and an inmate, the court clarified, when the relationship begins and when it ends:

“We did not previously, and do not today, expand it to a general duty to prevent a person from committing criminal acts in the future . . . The practical implications of imposing such a broad duty on jails are striking. By some estimates, the recidivism rate is well over 50 percent . . . Thus, one could argue that in almost any case, it is foreseeable that an inmate may commit another crime after release. Are jails civilly liable for those crimes if they failed to take adequate measures to prevent that foreseeable recidivism? Such an expansive interpretation is not supported . . .”

With that, the WA Supreme Court concluded that jails have a responsibility to control violent inmates while they are incarcerated, but they do not have a general duty to prevent such inmates from committing crimes after they are lawfully released from incarceration.

Prisoners on Strike

Reporter Alice Sperry of  wrote an article describing how prisoners around the country have called for a series of strikes against forced labor and  demanded reforms of parole systems and prison policies; as well as more humane living conditions, a reduced use of solitary confinement, and better health care.

Apparently, Texas prisons are a hotbed for the controversy. Weeks ago, inmates at five Texas prisons pledged to refuse to leave their cells because of the strike. The organizers even drafted a letter articulating the reasons for the strike. Their demands range from the specific, such as a “good-time” credit toward sentence reduction and an end to $100 medical co-pays, to the systemic, namely a drastic downsizing of the state’s incarcerated population.

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution bans “involuntary servitude” in addition to slavery, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted . . .”

Today, however, the prison industrial complex is $2 billion a year industry, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit research institute.

Sperry article describes how a majority of prisoners work for the prisons themselves, making well below the minimum wage in some states, and as little as 17 cents per hour in privately run facilities. In Texas and a few other states, mostly in the South, prisoners are not paid at all, said Erica Gammill, director of the Prison Justice League, an organization that works with inmates in 109 Texas prisons.

“They get paid nothing, zero; it’s essentially forced labor,” she told The Intercept. They rationalize not paying prison laborers by saying that money goes toward room and board, to offset the cost of incarcerating them.”

In Texas, prisoners have traditionally worked on farms, raising hogs and picking cotton, especially in East Texas, where many prisons occupy former plantations.

Although they comprise nearly half the incarcerated population nationwide — about 870,000 as of 2014 — prison workers are not counted in official labor statistics; they get no disability compensation in case of injury, no social security benefits, and no overtime.

The Texas action is not an isolated one. Prisoners in nearby Alabama and Mississippi, and as far away as Oregon, have also been alerted to the Texas strike through an underground network of communication between prisons.

In March, protests erupted at Holman Correctional Facility, a maximum security state prison in Alabama, where two riots broke out over four days. At least 100 prisoners gained control of part of the prison and stabbed a guard and the warden. Those protests were unplanned, but prisoners there had also been organizing coordinated actions that they say will go ahead as planned.

“We have to strain the economics of the criminal justice system, because if we don’t, we can’t force them to downsize,” an activist serving a life sentence at Holman told The Intercept. “Setting fires and stuff like that gets the attention of the media,” he said. “But I want us to organize something that’s not violent. If we refuse to offer free labor, it will force the institution to downsize.”

“Slavery has always been a legal institution,” he added. “And it never ended. It still exists today through the criminal justice system.”

“Good Time” Early Release

A recent news article from The News Tribune and the Bellingham Herald discussed how inmates earn time off their sentences. Also, earned release time is at the heart of the mistaken early release of inmates that is roiling the state prison system.The scandal has shown just how complicated the calculations involved can be, requiring software whose programming errors freed as many as 3,200 inmates early yet went undetected for a decade. At least two of the inmates prematurely released were later charged with deaths that happened while they should have been in prison.

These recent developments inspired this blog.

Although I’m highly successful at resolving serious criminal cases in a manner which avoids prison sentences, if prison is unavoidable then I do my best to reduce and/or amend their criminal charges in a manner which allows for early release through “Good Time.” It’s time to clarify some misunderstandings about what “Good Time” really is.


“Good Time” is governed by RCW 9.94A.728 and RCW 9.94A.729Washington’s Department of Corrections does not allow Good Time to individuals serving life without parole or sentenced to death. Also, Good Time cannot reduce a mandatory minimum prison sentences. There is no good time awarded on deadly weapon or firearm enhancement time. DOC does not award good time for sexual motivation enhancements. There is no good time awarded when confinement is imposed on conviction of a sex offense under Washington’s Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA).

DOC uses specific terms for what we call good time: DOC calculates “earned release time” (ERT) as a combination of “good conduct time” and “earned time credit.”  “Good conduct time” is time awarded for good behavior and “earned time credit” is time awarded for participating in DOC approved programming such as work and school.  A person who earns early release time and who shall be supervised by DOC will be transferred to community custody in lieu of earned early release. A comprehensive guide to good time and other related issues can be found at the DOC web site.


No. Under state law, the 50% good time rule expired on July 2, 2010, and has not been reinstated.


The chart below lists the potential good time that an inmate can receive.  Individuals may not be released on their early release date if they do not have a Release Plan, even if they have earned the time.

Crime type/classification Eligible Good Time Notes
Serious Violent or Class A Sex Offense Up to 10% if sentenced on or after 7/1/2003


Up to 15% for individuals sentenced from 7/1/90-7/1/2003
All other offenses Up to 33%

For all individuals sentenced July 2, 2010 and after, unless they are sentenced as a persistent offender.

Previously – up to 50% for certain offenses, depending upon risk level and other factors, if sentenced July 1, 2010 and before.


For the most part, offenders may receive 10% – 33% off for “Good Time.”


In 2009, the DOC implemented a standardized assessment which conducts an offender’s risk assessment upon arrival. That assessment determines the offender’s classification. Factors include criminal history (including in other states), current crime, and history and type of infractions. The “tool” is supposed to be more effective at determining risk. From DOC’s standpoint, this approach is supposed to be more effective at determining risk.

However, the Defense Bar has criticized DOC’s standardized assessment criteria as being “static” and “inflexible.”  Before 2009, individuals could see their classifications change for the better. Now, however, it doesn’t ever improve for the better– the risk category stays the same or gets worse.


Washington’s prisons house more than 16,000 people. More than 2,000 of them work for Correctional Industries, which is one way inmates can qualify for earned release time. Another 1,000 are on the waiting list, according to the job-training program.

About 9,000 are involved in some kind of education program, according to the community-college system that runs the programs. Hundreds more are on waiting lists for classes. The college system offers high-school level education, vocational training, and other programs such as job-search, parenting and anger-management courses. State law doesn’t allow state money to be used to award associate degrees.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s imperative for defense attorneys to properly advise clients facing prison sentences of their eligibility for earned release and opportunity for rehabilitative programs.

Bill Seeks Prison Time for Drone Crimes

Drone and Moon

Interesting news article from the Skagit Valley Herald. In an article titled, “Senate OKs Bill That Would Add Prison Time For Drone Crimes,” The WA Senate passed a bill that would allow prosecutors to seek an extra year in prison for offenders who use a drone aircraft while committing a crime.

Senate Bill 5499 passed on a 34-15 vote Tuesday and now heads to the House forconsideration. It adds the allegation of a “nefarious drone enterprise” to Washington criminal law. The state currently has no restrictions on the use of drones, although 20 other states have enacted laws on drone-related issues.

The bill adds a year to the sentencing range that dictates how judges can punish an offense. The measure was one a handful of other bills concerning drones that were filed in the Legislature this session in the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee’s veto of a bill last year that would have restricted how state and local government agencies use the unmanned aircraft.

My opinion? Although sad, Senate Bill 5499 was foreseeable. For example, under  RCW 46.20.285, defendants convicted of felonies get their driver’s licenses revoked for 1 year if a vehicle was used during the commission of a crime. It makes sense, therefore, that Prosecutors would get aggressive toward defendants if drones were used to further the commission of a crime. Sad but true.

What Caused the Decline In Crime?

Interesting reading.

A new report examines the dramatic drop in crime nationwide over the past two decades — and analyzes various theories for why it occurred.

In What Caused the Crime Decline? a team of economic and criminal justice researchers examined over 40 years of data, gathered from 50 states and the 50 largest cities. Their work examines one of the nation’s least understood recent phenomena – the dramatic decline in crime nationwide over the past two decades – and analyzes various theories for why it occurred. It concludes that over-harsh criminal justice policies, particularly increased incarceration, which rose even more dramatically over the same period, were not the main drivers of the crime decline. In fact, the report finds that increased incarceration has been declining in its effectiveness as a crime control tactic for more than 30 years. Its effect on crime rates since 1990 has been limited, and has been non-existent since 2000.

More important were various social, economic, and environmental factors, such as growth in income and an aging population. The introduction of CompStat, a data-driven policing technique, also played a significant role in reducing crime in cities that introduced it.

The report concludes that considering the immense social, fiscal, and economic costs of mass incarceration, programs that improve economic opportunities, modernize policing practices, and expand treatment and rehabilitation programs, all could be a better public safety investment.

Nobel laureate Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz called the report “groundbreaking” in a foreword.

This is ineresting reading. Also, their research contained information on how/why specific states’ dropoff in crime happened.