The City of Bellingham is a participant in Whatcom County's Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force that was created in 2015. Mayor Kelli Linville, City Council Member Dan Hammill, Municipal Court Administrator Darlene Peterson, and Fire Community Paramedic Jeff Brubaker represent the City of Bellingham on the Task Force. The City has made a number of changes to reduce the incarceration of individuals under its jurisdiction. The newly-created City Council Justice Committee has been briefed on current practices within the municipal court and law enforcement, and on current non-jail alternatives and diversion programs.
On Monday, October 23rd, the Justice Committee will host a presentation by staff from the Vera Institute of Justice, including Liz Swavola, Senior Program Associate with the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Institute. The Institute is a consultant to communities, including Whatcom County, that are engaged in reducing incarceration.
“We have heard from our own law enforcement and judges about what they are doing to create a humane and safe court system,” said Council President Michael Lilliquist. “Now this month we hear from national experts on best practices across the country.”
The Institute will present recommendations based on its quantitative and qualitative research findings for safely reducing the number of people incarcerated in Whatcom County, while improving fairness and efficiency in the local justice system. Recommendations include:
- Develop strategies to reduce incarceration of low-level offenders via additional sentencing alternatives and measures to clear warrants for minor offenses;
- Reform the bail system by adopting a data-driven pretrial risk-assessment tool along with pretrial services;
- Improve court processing procedures to reduce the length of time people spend in jail pre-trial;
- Continue development of a coordinated care system for individuals experiencing behavioral health issues
This is an open public meeting to be held at 1:15 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 210 Lottie Street. To view prior Justice Committee meetings, visit https://www.cob.org/gov/council/issues/Pages/Reducing-Avoidable-Incarceration.aspx