Island Friends push for justice changes

Criminal justice was the focus as three members of the Whidbey Island Worship Group of the Religious Society of Friends attended a Quaker Lobby Day in Olympia last week.

Tom Ewell and John Goertzel of Clinton, and Dorothy Parshall of Langley were among 50 other Quakers from Washington state to attend the event organized by the Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy.

Ewell is clerk of the committee.

The day focused on revising the “Three Strikes” law, the need for more higher education opportunities for those in prison and the restoration of the right to vote to persons who have been disenfranchised, Parshall said.

Rep. Roger Goodman, a 45th District Democrat representing parts of Snohomish and King counties, agreed the “Three Strikes” law has been used “far beyond its original intent,” Parshall said

“Those who are arrested and convicted a third time are automatically given a life sentence, regardless of the severity of the third offense,” she said. “It was intended for violent and dangerous offenders.”

Goodman told the group that the state could safely release 3,000 prisoners with life sentences who committed non-violent robberies.

He said the immediate savings would be $100 million per year, with more savings if they become self-supporting.

Meanwhile, committee member Carol Estes said statistics show that higher education for prisoners is the biggest single factor in preventing recidivism.

She said about 85 percent of those who receive higher education never return to prison or to the criminal justice system.

The Whidbey group also met with Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and

Rep. Barbara Bailey, along with a member of the staff of Rep. Norma Smith, to discuss problems in the criminal justice system, Parshall said.

“If we don’t deal effectively with social and criminal justice issues, it will always cost us money somewhere down the road,” Parshall said.

“I believe it is important for each of us to ensure that our legislators are aware of our stand on current issues,” she added. “They all impact on each other.”

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