Serving Franklin County, WA

Do you feel safer?

Over the past few years, our state has witnessed a steady rise in several types of crime. This has caused serious harm in many communities on both sides of the state, and many Washingtonians continue to live in fear that their families and homes and businesses will be touched by crime at some point.

One key reason for the crime hike is the state’s low number of law-enforcement officers per capita. Washington ranks dead last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

But another likely reason for the higher crime rates in our state is what some call the “revolving door” criminal system in which many convicted criminals are released from jail, only to commit another crime and end up behind bars again.

Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels spoke about how softer penalties for certain crimes are a factor in rising crime in our state:

“Systematically over the last 15 years, the Washington State Legislature has been reducing standard sentencing ranges for any myriad of crimes, like drug crimes and property crimes,” Sheriff Nowels said. “Which means, they’re letting people out of prison.”

The state Department of Corrections won’t call it that, of course.

When corrections officials made the surprise announcement in June that it would close a minimum-security prison in Clark County next month, the agency referred to “decreasing incarceration trends” and “declining admissions to prisons.”

It pointed to things like 2021’s Blake drug-possession ruling, which forced a huge number of inmate resentencings, and “mandated releases during the pandemic” as reasons for the falling prison population. While there are members of the Senate and House who would be thrilled that Corrections claims to be moving toward “a more humane corrections system,” here’s what I want to know, as your legislator: Do you feel safer?

—Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, represents the 9th Legislative District, including eastern Franklin County. Email him at [email protected].


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