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Criminal Justice

The Bill of Rights protects us against suspicionless searches and seizures. It guarantees due process to individuals who are accused of crimes and humane treatment to those who are incarcerated. The ACLU works to ensure that our criminal justice system indeed is just.
Stop the school to prison pipeline
Washington Needs Bail Reform:  Download No Money, No Freedom
Driven to Fail: Exposing the costs & ineffectiveness of Washington's most commonly charged crime
The death penalty is arbitrary, unfair, and racially biased.  The ACLU of Washington argued before the Washington Supreme Court to end it.


Friday, September 24, 2010
Consensual sexting should not be a crime for teens or adults. The frightening reality, however, is that our current child pornography laws coupled with modern technology have the potential to create a sex offender registry populated with the children it was intended to protect and a generation of teenagers who will reach the age of majority already convicted as child sex offenders. This is not what child pornography laws were meant for, and the time has come to address the issue rationally and reasonably, before it is too late. Read more
Friday, September 3, 2010
On September 2, 2010, the Seattle Times ran an op-ed discussing startling details about longstanding racial disparities in Washington’s criminal justice system. The op-ed is written by NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorneys John Payton and Ryan Haygood. Way back in 1980, Washington state “officials asked themselves a hard question about why the state led the nation in the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans.”  Fast forward to 2007 and you can see how the problem still exists. The state’s own Sentencing Guideline Commission reported in 2007 that African Americans were 3% of the state’s population, but “received 14.91% of all felony convictions and were the most over-represented racial group ….” Read more
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Gangs present a serious public safety challenge to our communities.  But the approach that our state has instinctively turned to in the past—relying on arresting and jailing those believed to be involved in gangs—fails to get to the root causes of the issue, and likely makes it worse.  To be sure, for Washington cities dealing with violent crime, such as those in the Yakima Valley, meeting this challenge means appropriately punishing violent offenders.  But it is equally critical to find avenues through which individuals can leave gangs and reenter the community.  Simply imprisoning gang members and telling them to leave gangs doesn’t work if there’s nothing else for them to do, and no resources to help them get out. Read more
Monday, August 16, 2010
Although the number of people being arrested and imprisoned for drug crimes in Washington is decreasing, we still rely far too heavily on the criminal sanction for dealing with drug abuse. Only 140 people were in Washington prisons for drug crimes in 1980, while in 2008 there were over 2,300. And this doesn’t include people locked up in jails; for example, in 2008, the average daily population (ADP) of drug offenders in the King County jail was 459 – 18% of total ADP. Similarly, less than 6,000 people were arrested for drug crimes in 1981, while the figure was over 20,000 in 2009 (down from an all time high of 27,909 in 2007). Even after adjusting for population changes, these increases are staggering.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I've recently returned from vacation in San Diego, a beautiful city from which you can see Tijuana, or "TJ," as the locals call it. My family and I had a fabulous time relaxing, reuniting with loved ones, and stuffing our gullets with the wonders of Juanita's Taco Shop. But my husband broke my cardinal vacation rule - no talk about work, please - and brought up California's Proposition 19. That forced my hand: If you're going to talk about cannabis reform, you have to talk about Mexico.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Last week the California NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) endorsed Proposition 19, a marijuana legalization initiative, which will appear on the November ballot in California. As stated by California NAACP president Alice Huffman, “we are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities and approximately 56% of the public in saying that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana.” Adding further, that “the war on drugs is a failure and disproportionately targets young men and women of color, particularly African-American males.”   Read more
Friday, July 2, 2010
Utah’s June 18 execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner captured attention from around the world. Why is this newsworthy? The U.S. has taken the lives of over 1,000 individuals since 1976. Since that year, Gardner is only the third person in the U.S. executed by firing squad.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Last week, Seattle's weekly Stranger newspaper reported on the launch of a new meth outreach program: For 16 years, Seattle Counseling Service (SCS), an LGBT mental-health- and addiction-­counseling center, has focused its meth outreach on gay men. A month ago, the organization started something different: Women OUT, a weekly meth-abuse support group for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LBTQ) women. This is a good thing. Rates of current (past-month) use of methamphetamine by women and men have been equal in recent years. Why the previous focus on gay men? According to a 2004 report published by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and the National Coalition of STD Directors, evidence suggested that meth use increased the likelihood of engaging in risky behavior like unprotected sex. Well, yes, that shouldn't have surprised anyone.
Friday, June 25, 2010
You might have thought that “debtors' prisons” were extinct. But people are still being jailed in Washington all too often simply because they can’t pay their court-ordered financial obligations in a criminal case. The Washington Supreme Court recently agreed with ACLU-WA that it is not fair to “automatically” send a person to jail for failure to pay these financial obligations, without a hearing to determine if the person has the ability to pay.
Monday, June 21, 2010
On June 10, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) proclaimed a major victory in the War on Drugs. As stated by Attorney General Eric Holder, Project Deliverance “struck a significant blow against the [Mexican] cartels…, [albeit] just one battle in what is an ongoing war.” The numbers involved certainly are impressive, 2,226 arrests (including 23 here in Washington), 74.1 tons of illegal drugs seized, and $154 million in apprehended assets. However, Project Deliverance is about more than just flashy photos of seized drugs and stern quotes from law enforcement officials, it is a snapshot of the futility of the War on Drugs.  Read more