Why Clemency...

Why do we care about clemency?

The parole board of Washington was dissolved in 1984. Anyone who was charged and convicted after 1984 is not given a second chance.

We have a growing overpopulated prison problem in Washington. → 3 Strikes Law introduced in 1993 to combat violent criminals and habitual criminals. However, this law has extended to reach a broad class of criminals, far more than it was intended to. It has resulted in a large increase in LWOP and Defacto LWOP sentences because judges no longer have the discretion to decide which cases in fact deserve these sentences. Thus we see many non-violent offenders getting sentenced to LWOPS at the same severity as murderers and rapists. (Insert Example case (ask for permission from Jon/Jen)

The U.S is the home of the largest prison population in the world 1 in 9 people in the United States are incarcerated. With a growing population in our prison system, the lack of any form of parole cripples our ability to alleviate some of the issue through an avenue of second chances and redemption.

There is a significant moral basis for the need of alleviation.

This lies in the racial bias in our criminal justice system, and thus the disproportionate racial disparity. (insert statistic about how disparate the population is/overrepresentation of certain demographics).

It is no longer disputable that there is an overrepresentation of the minority population in prisons. In Washington alone as of 1980, the population of black prisoners was nine times higher than the general population. Things are better now, but the rate still lies at an unacceptable rate of four times higher than the general population as of 2013. In the past, this overrepresentation has been grossly oversimplified by Justice Sanders of the Washington Supreme Court through the idea that minorities commit a disproportionate amount of crimes.

 Since then, in Washington state alone, an extensive amount of research and analysis was done into our criminal justice practices. To list just several reasons why we see such a disparity in our criminal justice system, the studies indicate a substantial bias against people of color, including harsher sentences, harsher treatment, and greater legal financial obligations. (Race in WA Criminal Justice.pdf)

  • We find ourselves wish such a disparate situation in Washington state not because of a disproportionate crime commission, but because at different levels of decision-making, racial bias is impactful.
  • Because the way we incarcerate people in the US is punitive focused more than rehabilitative focused, it creates a vicious cycle that furthers the racial imbalance in the prison population. (find stat/study to back this up). The elimination of a way to get a second chance in effect removes individuals from their communities and prevents positive growth in these communities. (recidivism rates are high)

    • Also, there are many cases of false convictions for various reasons. The criminal justice system is riddled with human error, and limiting the ways in which to contest those decisions is unjust. (insert multiple examples and studies.)

  • Aside from a moral basis for needing to solve the overpopulation issue stemming from a lack of second chances, there is a practical basis as well. Their is a significant financial burden in incarcerating people. Especially the elderly (insert stat about incarcerating the elderly).