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Criminal Justice

Court-Imposed Debts and the Poor: Reforming Policies for Legal Financial Obligations

The ACLU of Washington is working to ensure that no patient is refused access to lawful health care because of the religious doctrines of the institutions running hospitals, clinics, or other medical facilities. Health care facilities open to the general public should not refuse to provide reproductive health care and end-of-life care services; nor should they discriminate against LGBT patients and families. Read More »
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Funding the Criminal Justice System on the Backs of the Poor: ACLU Sues Benton County for Operating Debtors’ Prison

After struggling with addiction and mental illness, Jayne Fuentes served her time, found a job and got her life back on track. She’s been sober and crime-free for three years, but one thing still dogs her: fear of being jailed or forced to do physical labor because she can’t afford to pay the government. Read More »
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Lawsuit Challenges Benton County’s Modern-Day Debtors’ Prison

Oct 6, 2015
A lawsuit is being filed that says Benton County is violating the Constitution by jailing, threatening to jail, or forcing manual labor on people who are too poor to pay court-imposed debts. Read More »

ACLU Calls for Changing State Law on Prosecuting Police for Killings

The prosecutor has decided not to file charges against Pasco police officers who killed a man throwing rocks. The decision shows a clear need to amend our state law on use of deadly force by law enforcement, so that police can better be held accountable. Read More »

Courts Should Review Harsh Sentences from Ill-Conceived Drug Laws

The War on Drugs has left thousands of people locked up under sentencing laws now widely viewed as discriminatory and not based in fact. An ACLU-WA brief is taking aim at the effects of an egregious Drug War policy: the lengthy sentences being served because of the government’s wrongheaded distinction between crack and powder cocaine, resulting in a 100:1 crack-powder disparity in sentences. Read More »

ACLU Urges Seattle to Delay Enforcement Action Against Hookah Lounges

The ACLU of Washington is concerned about the City’s announced plan to shut down hookah lounges across the city. We believe that city enforcement decisions that will deprive business owners of their livelihood should not be made in haste.

Read the full letter to Seattle Mayor Edward Murray below. Read More »

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Groups Warn Local Officials on Laws Criminalizing Sleeping and Camping by the Homeless

Aug 19, 2015
The ACLU-WA and allies are pointing local officials statewide to an important Dept. of Justice brief. It explains that when there is insufficient shelter space, cities that prosecute homeless people for sleeping or camping in public places violate the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Read More »

Washington Supreme Court Rules Judges Can Use Age to Impose Lower Sentences for Youth

The WA Supreme Court has ruled that a judge can consider a defendant’s young age in imposing a sentence for a crime committed after his 18th birthday. The ruling affirmed what parents have known and scientists have confirmed: that the brain does not achieve full maturity until well past the age of 18. Read More »