OLYMPIA – More than 7,000 people will finish their prison sentences and return to the community this year in Washington state. Unfortunately, too many of those people will return to prison in large part due to the lack of opportunity once they leave the corrections system.
Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (D-Seattle) has a bill that passed the House of Representatives unanimously today: 97-0. The bill restores opportunities for some of those offenders giving them a better chance to turn their lives around.
“Too many former inmates end up back in prison due to unnecessary lifelong punishments that prevent them from getting jobs or an education,” said Walkinshaw. “If you commit a crime, you should do the time. But once that sentence is fully served, the state shouldn’t create barriers to getting those lives turned around. We need to embrace programs that provide opportunities for former inmates, in good standing with the courts, to become contributing members of society.”
HB 1553 would create a Certificate for Restoration of Opportunity Program for certain inmates leaving jails and prisons. The certificate would act as a receipt that proves a person has fulfilled the conditions of a sentence or is in substantial compliance with paying off fines and fees.
“This bill will ultimately save taxpayer dollars by reducing the number of returning inmates. If you are for fiscal responsibility, you should support this bill,” Walkinshaw added.
The proposal has reasonable protections in place to ensure those convicted of sex crimes would not be eligible. The legislation does not restore gun rights.
The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.