The 34th District is full of neighborhoods that are great places to live, work, and shop. However, many of these neighborhoods would be better and safer places if state government took a smarter, results-oriented approach to public safety.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, but this hasn't made us any safer. In fact, crime rates are higher here than in most industrialized countries. We need to be allocating law enforcement resources in the areas where they will have the biggest impact on public safety.
Our district has been threatened with the possibility of having a new city jail located near a residential neighborhood. I believe that through a reprioritization of our criminal justice resources, we can avoid the need for a new jail altogether.
Some of the reforms we can make to spend our public safety dollars more wisely include:
*Decriminalization of marijuana possession. Spending millions of taxpayer dollars every year on arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating low-level marijuana offenders does not make us any safer. Paying for this enforcement is a burden on cities, counties, and the state. Incarcerating marijuana offenders ruins lives, and I support changing marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, like a parking ticket (HB 1177).
*During tough budget times, budget-writers often cut back on programs that we know are cheaper and provide better results than the traditional criminal justice system--programs like drug courts, mental health and chemical dependency treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, these short-term efforts to save money cost us all more in the long run by increasing crime and the cost of dealing with crime. I will seek full funding for cost-effective, results-oriented programs such as these.
*Reform of outdated sentencing laws such as the three-strikes law, in line with recommendations from the Sentencing Guidelines Commission.
*Improved flexibility for local governments as they allocate resources for public safety, including removal of non-supplant language for the public safety and criminal justice sales and use tax and allowing local gambling revenue to be used for general public safety purposes (HB 3179). These changes, among others, can enable Seattle, Burien, and King County to keep more officers on our streets where we need them.