Justice Innovation and Alternatives to Incarceration

​The Bellingham City Council supports alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.  Jail should not be used as a fallback because of insufficient mental health and substance use treatment.  Improving procedures in the criminal justice system also contributes to incarceration reduction.  The City of Bellingham has taken the lead in piloting jail alternatives such as electronic home monitoring, and supports countywide efforts to reduce the jail population.

Preventing Incarceration 

The City supports existing or new incarceration alternatives such as Drug Court and a Mental Health Court.  The City Council is helping to develop reforms through involvement in Whatcom County’s Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force, which is identifying new programs or activities to reduce the jail population — such as improved delivery of local mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and reduction in inappropriate use of the emergency room, 911, and the jail.  Justice procedural reforms, such as pretrial risk assessment and provision of pretrial services, are also being considered.

City Council Justice Committee

In July 2017 the Bellingham City Council created a new Justice Committee to explore City investments into incarceration alternatives and improved justice procedures, and to ensure that all residents of the CIty are treated fairly and equitably.  Meeting videos are linked below.




Whatcom County Jail Stakeholder Workgroup

Two members of the Bellingham City Council participated in a jail stakeholder workgroup set up by the Whatcom County Council.  The City Council supported a City-County Memorandum of Agreement to commit at least 25% of available revenues from a jail capital bond to activities that reduce incarceration of individuals with behavioral health conditions, and minimize jail utilization by pretrial defendants who can safely be released.