Community

Game Changes

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Prosecution should be less about punishment and more about doing what it takes to keep our community safe. Getting people to change their behavior does not always take the heavy hand of the government. Sometimes a lighter touch is enough to get the message across, which is one of the reasons why we believe that first time, lower-level offenders must be offered treatment options without any incarceration. We also believe that when people get accustomed to incarceration, jail sentences become easier to do and are less impactful in reducing recidivism.

Jailing people for low-level, nonviolent offenses can have the opposite effect of keeping the community safe. In fact, recent studies have shown that incarcerating people for as little as three days greatly increases the likelihood a person will commit another crime within two years. 

We see interventions and treatment versus jail time as central to the recovery of those who are addicted to substances like opiates.

Since January, Whatcom County Drug Court has greatly expanded to being nearly full, and will need critical support services like more treatment options and dedicated housing. To that end, we support the partnership between Opportunity Council and Lifeline Connections to develop and operate a recovery housing program in Bellingham. People in recovery need the stability of housing as well as peer support and clinical services to be successful.

But early interventions are the ones that are most effective: Investing in the future success of our community’s children is the biggest influencer of whether we see them as young adults at the front door of the criminal justice system or on the first day of classes at Whatcom Community College. We both support universal pre-K, free daycare, parenting programs and vocational prep.  So many of the drivers and influencers of how people enter the criminal justice system exist in the social fabric of our community, not the courtroom. Addressing issues like poverty and racial disparities are at the heart of any true criminal justice reform.

As board members of DVSAS (Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services), we are cautiously optimistic about the new offender treatment therapy that the organization is bringing to our community. This evidence-based therapy can help keep survivors safe and treat the root causes of domestic abuse. We also support the new DVSAS shelter for survivors that was opened last year and applaud the leadership of Lydia Place for continuing its mission of breaking the cycle of homelessness by housing women and kids.

For years, there was no reliable third option beyond jail and the hospital’s Emergency Department for officers and deputies who dealt with people in acute substance disorder or mental health psychosis. One of the goals for the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force was to open a Crisis Stabilization Center (CSC), providing our community with a way to treat people who are in crisis. The CSC will be treating patients in less than a year, but it needs to be funded like a fire station—always ready to serve. Therefore, we support Representative Shewmake’s efforts to secure $1 million in operating funds until the ongoing funding needs for this important local treatment facility get sorted out in Olympia. 

These are game-changing policies and programs, and we know there’s more to do. Working together, the City and County governments will continue to reduce victimization, save taxpayer dollars and transform the lives of those who are involved with our local justice system.

Eric Richey is the Whatcom County Prosecutor. Dan Hammill is president of Bellingham City Council. Both serve on the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force.

Past Columns
Saying Goodbye

December 11, 2019

Cold and Alone

December 4, 2019

Big Money Politics

November 13, 2019

A Win for the Birds

July 24, 2019

Road to ‘Nowhere’

June 26, 2019

Salish Sea Science

January 23, 2019

Cherry Point Amendments

January 16, 2019

Invest in the Future

September 26, 2018

A Desperate Call

August 29, 2018

Criminalizing Protest

July 18, 2018

Threshold Fund

June 13, 2018

Imprisoned Splendour

May 9, 2018

Pathways to Homeownership

April 25, 2018

Yes on I-1631

April 11, 2018

Divide-and-Conquer

October 11, 2017

Schools and Planning for Growth

September 27, 2017

Events
Today
Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Coffee Brewing Class

2:00pm|Camber Coffee

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Splitboard 101

6:00pm|REI

Sparkling Wines

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Celtic Christmas Concert

6:30pm|Anacortes Transit Shed Events Center

Marina Albero Trio

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

O Christmas Tea

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Tomorrow
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Holiday Favorites

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Naughty List Market and Cabaret

2:00pm|Broadway Hall

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Songs of Peace with Kulshan Youth Choir

5:30pm|First Congregational Church

Bellwether Premiere Wine Social

5:30pm|Lighthouse Grill

Holiday Party

6:00pm|Camber Coffee

DSA Movie Night

6:00pm|Academic West

Winter Pop-Up with Taylor Shellfish

6:00pm|Aslan Depot

Peaceful Poetry Reading

6:30pm|Village Books

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Storm Music Extravaganza

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Peace, Love, and Ukuleles

7:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Avalanche Awareness

7:00pm|Backcountry Essentials

History Holiday

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Good, Bad, Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Friday
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

The Naughty List Market and Cabaret

2:00pm|Broadway Hall

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Connelly Creek Nature Area

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Holiday Craft Bazaar

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Drayton Harbor Shellebration

4:00pm|G Street Plaza

Gingerbread House Making

4:30pm|Ferndale Library

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Photos and Stories with James K. Papp

5:00pm|Gallery Pegasus

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Kids Night Out @ Western

6:00pm|Western Washington University

Lost Feast

7:00pm|Village Books

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Christmastime is Here with Skagit Symphony

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

see our complete calendar »