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End Cash Bail

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

As members of the County’s Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force, we are excited to see results and new jail diversion efforts underway in Bellingham’s Electronic Home Monitoring program and Whatcom County’s upcoming GRACE program. We also find that continued detailed examination of our criminal justice system is revealing other sensible, cost-saving opportunities to create more equitable outcomes for the people it affects most directly—particularly through bail justice reform. People who are poor and/or disabled continue to be incarcerated in part due to their poverty.

A recent situation was retold by the county’s public defender that illustrates the opportunity we have to make progress toward greater equity and lower rates of incarceration. She had two defendants in court one morning. One was a Class-B felon drug dealer facing a year in prison and another was one of his addicted customers facing a possession charge.

She asked, “Guess which one could afford to post bail and who couldn’t?”

We think there is a better way to make decisions about who we incarcerate and why we incarcerate them.
More than 60 percent of Whatcom County’s jail population is being held on pretrial status. Our cash bail system clearly doesn’t work for many people in poverty, and in cases like the felony drug dealer, it has the potential to both increase crime and reduce public safety for the broader community.

The recent report from the Vera Institute confirms that cash bail doesn’t make the community safer—people with higher bail amounts get out at about the same rate as those with lower bail. And those with lower bails are incarcerated disproportionately for failing to appear for court dates for non-violent crimes.

We can change this.

A clear path forward to a pretrial risk-assessment tool is being weighed by the Legal and Justice Committee of the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force. This tool—much like Bellingham’s Electronic Home Monitoring program—would rely on a score to determine whether a person is safe enough to release, not their ability to post bail.

The tool could be designed to evaluate multiple factors including the type (if any) of a person’s criminal history, previous failures to appear in court, and housing and employment stability. Certain factors are nonstarters: violent criminal history, sexual assault and other dangerous behaviors keep people incarcerated up to their trial.

But the right tool has to be adopted or created for higher courts. And monitoring and enforcement resources must be included for courts beyond Bellingham Municipal Court to ensure public safety.

For that local court, a third-party nonprofit—Friendship Diversion Services—provides monitoring services for electronic home monitoring. For pretrial in other courts, similar resources will be needed to be effective.

These risk-assessment tools aren’t new.

The state of New Jersey passed laws in 2014 that eliminated cash bail outright.  Hawaii, Nevada, Vermont, and West Virginia have all passed laws transforming the bail system into a risk-assessment system. In New Mexico, voters approved similar reforms by 87 percent.

Using a validated, evidence-based risk-assessment tool can help keep our Whatcom County communities safer.

We are encouraged that the Task Force process is generating positive recommendations to make our criminal justice system more equitable and effective. Bellingham’s jail diversion reforms are a step in the right direction. And we have more opportunities at both the city and county levels to prevent incarceration, increase safety and save taxpayer dollars.

Dan Hammill is the Ward 3 representative of Bellingham City Council; Greg Winter is Executive Director of Opportunity Council; both are members of the Whatcom County Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Taskforce.

Past Columns
On Police Reform

July 21, 2021

Washington Can’t Wait

March 3, 2021

Emissions-Free Future

November 11, 2020

Restoring the Grizzly

July 22, 2020

Unhealthy wages

June 30, 2020

Iowa Fiasco

February 5, 2020

Oil Slick

October 23, 2019

Rethink Our Food System

September 25, 2019

The Kampuchean Lobbyist

April 10, 2019

The Public Charge

November 28, 2018

Road to Damascus

April 18, 2018

Orcas and Oil Don’t Mix

February 21, 2018

A Sorry State

January 31, 2018

Backyard Cottages

January 17, 2018

Fight City Hall

January 10, 2018

Friday
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Kids, adults and adventurers can join Wild Whatcom for a “Wild Things” community program exploring local trails and parks from 9:30am-11am every Friday. Please bring a simple, healthy snack,…

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Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for the final Salmon Sighting events of the season taking place from 10am-1pm Friday, and 12pm-3pm Saturday at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park. Join…

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After a year’s hiatus, Whidbey Art Market returns from 10am-4pm Friday and Saturday in Freeland at Freeland Hall, 1515 Shoreview Dr. There will be something for everyone—oil, acrylic,…

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“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Nov. 27 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

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11:00am

Works by featured artist Amy Popelka can be seen for the final week from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

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11:00am

Check out the invitational exhibit “Among the Trees” for the final week from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The show features works by numerous…

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11:00am

Anita Lehmann’s “Studio Conversations: Short Stories” can be viewed from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through November in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Masks…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Dia de los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance,”…

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11:00am

View works by sculptor Ann Morris and landscape-inspired watercolors and colored pencil works by Kim Obbink for the final weekend from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at Smith &…

Small Arts Works Juried Show

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Small Art Works” regional juried art show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Jan. 13 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St.…

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11:00am

View “Dendritic Signals” for the final week from 11am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The show features abstract artwork in a variety of mediums and colors,…

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11:00am

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11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

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12:00pm

View “Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art,” “Artists x Artists,” “The Fairhaven Hotel,” “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the…

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12:00pm

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Rebel Artists of Whatcom County will host a Black Friday Market from 3pm-7pm at the Commercial Street Plaza, 1315 Commercial St. The outdoor vendor market will feature local artists and…

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Attend the Fourth Friday Art Walk taking place from 5pm-8pm at galleries and venues throughout historic Fairhaven. Meet artists, see demos, enjoy entertainment and celebrate local creative…

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Attend “A Drive-Thru Christmas” from 5pm-10pm Friday through Sunday in Stanwood at Warm Beach Park, 20800 Marine Dr. The illuminating experience features more than a million lights, festive…

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7:30pm

At 7:30pm and 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday, “Genre Legends” will take the stage at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. Watch the players pick multiple genres for each show and…

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7:30pm

Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph will make appearances when Music Theatre International’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed…

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8:00pm

One of the Skagit Valley’s favorite holiday traditions continues when A Christmas Carol opens this weekend with showings at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 2:30pm Sunday in Mount Vernon at the…

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9:00pm

Fretts, JP Falcon Grady, and an “It’s Kizmet” drag show start at 9pm Fri., Nov. 26 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The COVID Relief Benefit Show for Make.Shift Art Space will be followed…

Saturday
Paintings of My Life, In Dialogue

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Feb. 23 (closed on Thanksgiving) at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a…

Fall Juried Show Closing Week

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden for the final week from 11am-7pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11am-5pm Friday at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Free Parks Day

8:00am

Celebrate autumn by taking advantage of the last Washington State Free Parks Day of 2021. A Discover Pass won’t be needed for day-use visits at state parks, so explore nearby locales to your…

Holiday Bazaar

8:00am

Peruse glassworks, woodworks, metalworks, jewelry, paintings, knit-wear and more at a Holiday Bazaar featuring one-of-a-kind gifts from Whatcom County artists from 8am-5pm daily through…

Wild Things

9:30am

Kids, adults and adventurers can join Wild Whatcom for a “Wild Things” community program exploring local trails and parks from 9:30am-11am every Friday. Please bring a simple, healthy snack,…

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Allied Arts’ annual Holiday Festival of the Arts takes place from 10am-7pm daily through Dec. 24 (except on Thanksgiving) at 1411 Railroad Ave. The five-week-long festival will feature works…

Salmon Sighting with NSEA

10:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for the final Salmon Sighting events of the season taking place from 10am-1pm Friday, and 12pm-3pm Saturday at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park. Join…

Whidbey Art Market

10:00am

After a year’s hiatus, Whidbey Art Market returns from 10am-4pm Friday and Saturday in Freeland at Freeland Hall, 1515 Shoreview Dr. There will be something for everyone—oil, acrylic,…

Future Artifacts

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Nov. 27 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

Amy Popelka at Good Earth

11:00am

Works by featured artist Amy Popelka can be seen for the final week from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

Among the Trees

11:00am

Check out the invitational exhibit “Among the Trees” for the final week from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The show features works by numerous…

Studio Conversations

11:00am

Anita Lehmann’s “Studio Conversations: Short Stories” can be viewed from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through November in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Masks…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Dia de los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance,”…

Morris and Obbink

11:00am

View works by sculptor Ann Morris and landscape-inspired watercolors and colored pencil works by Kim Obbink for the final weekend from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at Smith &…

Small Arts Works Juried Show

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Small Art Works” regional juried art show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Jan. 13 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St.…

Dendritic Signals

11:00am

View “Dendritic Signals” for the final week from 11am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The show features abstract artwork in a variety of mediums and colors,…

Lorna Libert at Scott Milo

11:00am

New Pacific Northwest oils by Bellingham-based artist Lorna Libert will be featured from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Nov. 27 at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Mindport Exhibits

11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Up Close and Personal at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art,” “Artists x Artists,” “The Fairhaven Hotel,” “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the…

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm

The annual “Deck the Old City Hall” returns starting this weekend from 12pm-5pm Friday through Sunday at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. View a variety of themed, decorated…

Rebel Artists Black Friday Market

3:00pm

Rebel Artists of Whatcom County will host a Black Friday Market from 3pm-7pm at the Commercial Street Plaza, 1315 Commercial St. The outdoor vendor market will feature local artists and…

Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk

5:00pm

Attend the Fourth Friday Art Walk taking place from 5pm-8pm at galleries and venues throughout historic Fairhaven. Meet artists, see demos, enjoy entertainment and celebrate local creative…

The Lights of Christmas

5:00pm

Attend “A Drive-Thru Christmas” from 5pm-10pm Friday through Sunday in Stanwood at Warm Beach Park, 20800 Marine Dr. The illuminating experience features more than a million lights, festive…

Genre Legends

7:30pm

At 7:30pm and 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday, “Genre Legends” will take the stage at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. Watch the players pick multiple genres for each show and…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7:30pm

Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph will make appearances when Music Theatre International’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed…

A Christmas Carol

8:00pm

One of the Skagit Valley’s favorite holiday traditions continues when A Christmas Carol opens this weekend with showings at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 2:30pm Sunday in Mount Vernon at the…

Shakedown Shows

9:00pm

Fretts, JP Falcon Grady, and an “It’s Kizmet” drag show start at 9pm Fri., Nov. 26 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The COVID Relief Benefit Show for Make.Shift Art Space will be followed…