Policy Engagement

As a women of color, a mother, a first generation student, and a scholar of the U.S criminal legal system, I’ve never felt I had the privilege to sit on the sidelines and not engage in policy reform. Reform needs to happen at the federal level, but also at the state and local levels. Here I list a set of forms that I’ve advocated.

I’ve spent the past 20 years studying juvenile and criminal legal systems. As a result, my research findings have a great deal of real substantive policy implications that I actively highlight.

Seattle Municipal Court Report

Along with Frank Edwards (lead author), I prepared and presented the findings of this report to the Seattle City Council on September 22, 2020. Here we found in our analysis of SMC automated court data from 2000-2017, that for each class of cases analyzed Black men and women are significantly more likely than peers to be sentenced to incarceration through a WA State Superior Court following both a PAID and UNPAID SMC legal financial obligation (LFO). Furthermore, BIPOC individuals have a higher likelihood than White people to be charged with a driving with license suspended in third degree (DWLS3) following an SMC LFO. This was especially pronounced for Black drivers. Following our presentation on Sept 23, 2020, the Seattle Municipal Court judges voted to eliminate all discretionary fines and fees in criminal cases (I should note I think these policy changes were in the works for a while as we have a number of local community organizations advocating for these changes). There are still “mandatory” fines and fees set at the state level that need to be eliminated. Recent article on our research and Seattle City Council policy changes.

Washington State Legislative Reform re: transparency in DOC contracts

On June 11, 2020 SB6476 went into effect. This aim of this reform is to increase and expand access of people who are incarcerated and their immediate family members to services provided within correctional facilities. One part of this legislation requires now that the contracts between the DOC and private companies (e.g. Jpay) must be made publicly available. This recommendation was based directly from an analysis I conducted along with two graduate students, Tyler Smith and Emmi Obara performed in this paper

Amicus briefs

I’ve had the opportunity to sign on to, author my own, and have my research cited in a number of amicus briefs regarding monetary sanctions. In support of petition for certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court in Mickelson v. County of Ramsey

Washington State Legislative Reform re: Indigency and elimination of interest

In June 2018, SB 1783 went into effect in Washington State. These policy changes transformed the system of monetary sanctions in Washington State. This policy eliminated the 12% interest on non-restitution LFOs, established an indigency standard to be used in sentencing of fines and fees, and prioritized LFO payments to restitution for victims. This bill does fall short in that WA state has a set of “mandatory” fines and fees and they “shall” be sentenced regardless if a person is homeless, unemployed or determined indigent. A great deal of community led organizers led the way for this bill to be draft, negotiated and finally adopted. I engaged by testifying in Olympia and advocating for the changes for a number of years prior to its adoption. In June 2018, along with the support of Arnold Ventures, I organized an afternoon session with members of the WA State Supreme Court, local community organizers and researchers to talk about SB 1783 implementation and further reforms needed.


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