The Restorative CommUnity Coalition

~Reclaiming Lives Since 2006~

Reclaiming Lives – What Do We Do?

This is the letter we sent to the Washington State Attorney General asking for a special investigator.

Download The PDF Here

The Restorative Community Coalition looks out for everyone. Most recently we are looking out for our members and allies whose image & copyrighted materials were co-opted for the Pro-Jail Tax movement. On October 24th, 2017 and image of a 2015 Anti-Jail Tax Rally was posted to the Whatcom Jail Facebook page with alterations depicting those same protestors as for the 2017-1 Jail Tax. Those depicted immediately called for the removal of the picture to the page & sent in complaints to Facebook. The image was removed and an “apology” issued. That was not good enough for our Board. On October 31, 2017 we issued a Request for Full Disclosure to Sheriff Bill Elfo.

Re: Stop Whatcom County Jail MisManagement – Fix the Jail Now!

By Joy Gilfilen, submitted to Whatcom County Council and Bellingham City Council 07-02-2017

Whatcom County’s self-proclaimed decade of expanding jail problems and constant crisis about overcrowding, accompanied by no self-correction, is defacto proof of “mismanagement.” It’s time to stop.

Stop Crisis MisManagement* – No Excuses.

  1. Emergency conditions are self-inflicted, self-controlled, self-regulated and can be fixed immediately.
  2. Confirmed by Prosecutor/court, Sheriff/jail, Executive/admin and “jail builder/contractor” records.
  3. Under the direct control of: Prosecutor (1) – Sheriff (1) – Jail Chief (1) – Executives (2) – Deputy Executives (2) who interpret the rules (and make some); control contracts (write them) and then administer business, budgets, projects and flow to meet their own timelines and demands.
  4. Officials have legal ways to reduce the ‘crisis’ and fix the “catastrophic risk” problem, yet don’t.
  • The taxpayers have been paying (3) .1% sales taxes extra towards solutions – each tax worth 3 to 4 Million annually…starting with imposed .1% in 1999; approved .1% in 2004; approved .1% in 2008. Return on investment result? Poor quality jail maintenance even as military style equipment, SWAT, fleets, armoring and technology to track people increases.
  • Taxpayers built a brand new medium security 150 bed jail for use by 2006. Instead of reducing crowding, jail industries expanded. This increased the over-criminalizing and over-incarcerating of non-violent people even as statistical arrest trends for serious and juvenile crime was going down.
  • Whatcom County Code requires (and provides legal means) to reduce over-crowding. Rather than use the rules, they instead violate these laws and doubled down by changing rules to restrict release.
    • “Good time” rules changed from 1/3rd to 1/6th early release (making people serve more time).
    • They add restrictions/change rules that made it harder to for people to qualify for good time
  • Constricted use of therapeutic courts against logic. When drug court was receiving awards for effectiveness, the Prosecutor changed rules to make it harder to enter, harder to graduate.

Reality Check: People are harmed daily on this watch, by those in responsible charge.

This is a jail, not a prison. It is to hold short-term inmates, the public and the taxpayers safe. In fact, the system has become a crossroads for corrections or condemnation. The assumption is that people arrested and accused have the right to be “innocent until proven guilty” – not punished at arrest. These are local people from our community who will return to our community. Unfortunately, in Whatcom County consequences of an arrest have become both excessive and unnecessary.

  1. Results show there are suicides, brain damage, death, irreversible emotional trauma caused inside.
  2. An estimated 60-80% of those people inside the jail are non-violent and not yet convicted.
  3. An arrestee (and their families) have incurred hidden costs of $10,000 or more just for an arrest.
  4. Money is paid to the County, to attorneys, to private jail industry contractors (privateers), etc.
  5. Arrestees will accept plea bargains (even when “not guilty as charged”) just to get out of the system. Unknowingly this starts a chain of events that sparks a lifetime of continuous poverty and punishment inflicted by subsequent social, technological and bureaucratic ripple effects.

Grassroots Interception Required: Lawmakers have an obligation to intervene.

Right now is the optimal point of maximum impact to make a course correction. Before you pass any more taxes and provide a free ride to another level of mismanagement. Right now is the only time to leverage your influence on behalf of taxpayers to establish true justice, liberty and freedom.

Everyone already knows that writing new jail use agreements does not solve the problem. Getting mayors to agree to spend unapproved funds does not solve the problem. Deflecting or denial does not solve the problem. Buying and selling a new sales tax does not solve the problem. Building a 3rd jail on 40 acres that has built-in plans to expand from 492 beds to 2400 beds and beyond does not solve the problem. Expanding the Sheriff’s headquarters to 2.5 acres doesn’t solve the problem. Moving the jail outside of the County Seat does not solve the problem. These are not the solutions. They are sales tactics. Every one of these actions compounds the problem and creates escalating damage.

Solution: Legislative Power obligates you to Stop Abuse. Say NO.

  1. Stop Punishing. Stop punishing arrestees, families and employees who are in harm’s way. Stop punishing councils, public servants, and activists who have spent years in citizen defense. Stop punishing taxpayers. Taxpayers are all of us who pay the bills that support the government. Taxpayers sit at the top of the Whatcom County organizational chart. We said No in 1997. They invoked a tax in 1999 anyway. So we passed taxes in 2004 and 2008. It got worse. We finally said NO again in 2015.
  2. Intervene. Declare a vote of “No Confidence” in a flawed plan. Demand better. Demand facts, assessments, better options – then crosscheck for truth. Challenge allegations that “one big expandable jail in the county is the only option”. Ask the Executive to prove their recommendation and their alleged “Needs Assessment” in a transparent public hearing. Let the public examine the facts for validity, logic and relevancy to current conditions. 492 beds is not a “compromise.” It is a green light to the Sheriff to use the pod design to expand to 2400 beds the instant the forever sales tax is authorized.
  3. Course Correct. Fix the jail immediately. Get out of chaos, out of crisis. Just say NO to the idea that only taxes and new jails fix mismanagement. That is illogical. It doesn’t work.

Action 1: Fix the Jail! Take URGENT Emergency Management Action

Priority #1: Stop Hemorrhaging. Fix the inhumane conditions in the jail.

No excuses. People are being harmed on your watch. Assume no new money, no new tax. Convene an emergency team of County, City and Public representatives to do one thing: Correct the inhumane conditions in both Jail #1 and Jail #2 immediately. Use the Design2Last recommendations for immediate physical guidance. Assess all hands on deck, all resources and all facilities available for use. Examine using Division Street differently, use South Campus, the old Pioneer Services building on Irongate, move the Sheriff into the Emergency Operations Facility at the airport, facilitate non-profits to bring ideas forward to expand safe and sane housing, open vacant buildings for community services, empower volunteer reentry mentoring, implement restorative justice solutions, (list is long). Invite new service providers to open dual diagnosis facilities. Allow creativity and grassroots solutions.

Priority #2: Constrict Inflow. Implement high OFN/high ROI corrections ASAP.

Identify all emergency solutions that come from Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force (IPRTF) members such as judges, public defenders, staff, and from non-profit and citizen representatives who are working in the field. Rate implementation by Optimal Frugal Need (OFN) – what is the least cost/highest impact action that will get the highest return on investment for money and time spent, that is within your immediate control? 1) Highest Impact/High Control is at point of first contact. Whenever possible use prevention tools with officers/non-profit discretion to support trauma interception, intervention, diversion, and restorative justice tools ASAP. Use OFN to stop people from entering the jail in the first place. 2) Highest Control/High Impact: Expedite administrative actions at OFN inside system with inmates and courts to reduce ALS (average length of stay). This de-escalates trauma and reduces costs everywhere. 3) High Impact/Lower Control: Provide Exit options (at OFN) for low risk/non-violent people ASAP. Consider using restorative circles and restorative justice to reduce fines and restore people to wholeness. Provide ReEntry OFN support to reduce recidivism rate.

Action 2: Examine Legal and Systems Options – Adjust and Correct Flaws

Priority #3: Fix System Failures. Use facts to correct local law and justice system.

Use the VERA Institute’s statistical analysis of the recently delivered jail facts and historical data to understand your clients, your law enforcement arrest patterns, jailing patterns, identify criminal justice trends to see problem areas that can be improved. Make course corrections. Overlay with the 38 administrative mapping issues that help the IPRTF to make smart, evidence based internal, legal and administrative corrections to yield better results for law enforcement, the courts and the taxpayers. Make course corrections.

Priority #4: Local Justice Reform: Do a Market Study & Social Costs Impact Analysis

Most policymakers, law enforcers, and court staff in charge of administering the law enforcement, justice and private jail industry support systems do not know the consequences of an arrest on a person, on the family, and on the community in today’s world. For policymakers to make smart choices for the future, it is essential that we acknowledge and examine the negative, hidden impacts of market forces that have changed the entire landscape and context of corrections. Then find new emerging solutions, and create plans to correct and mitigate in ways that support public safety and empowerment.

Example: A college student arrested in Whatcom County often incurs $10,000 or more in damages by the arrest alone. It can change their entire career, causing loss of funding, inability to enter certain fields. Even if found not-guilty, the compound unintended consequences of just a ticket being written, or an arrest going in the newspaper, can irrationally condemn the person to a lifetime of poverty, persecution and punishment that is way out of proportion to the original violation. This serves no one.

Think about it: What is the cost of losing a 20 year old into the incarceration funnel? Simple math shows that if they go into it on and off for 40 years x $50,000/yr = $2 Million per person in tax losses. Add in the social costs at a multiplier factor of 11x = total costs is $22 Million dollars to the taxpayers and family having to pay for it.

We could instead train them at a blue collar job or at Harvard, and recover our investment millions of times over if we did it differently. Obviously something is wrong with this picture. One investment destroys, one empowers. We can start to empower people locally at a fraction of this cost.

We have the ingenuity locally to create a new business operating model for managing corrections and incarceration. We can review all contracts and make smart business corrections that help redirect taxpayer dollars back into the local market so the community gets the benefit of reinvestment multipliers. Divest from co-dependence on international jail contractor industries by using local food, practitioner and service providers. Rebuild the community business model so it is local focused, regenerative, and responsive to local needs and conditions.

Action 3: Do a True Needs Assessment, Fiscal Analysis, and Market SWOT Analysis.

Then you will have a basis upon which to talk to the taxpayers about a raise. Or maybe at that point we will all know if there can be more systems reductions. Until then, it is a waste of time. Taxpayers said no. No means NO. No more excuses. No more taxes. We need help to fix the jail. We need leaders to step forward now.

*Facts and statements can be verified by examination of public records and documents. They are available via sources such as: Whatcom County public records, through minutes of Whatcom County Council, in the Final Environmental Impact Statement process from 2010-2013, in the Incarceration Prevention & Reduction Task Force minutes, audios and handouts, in Bellingham City Council public records, in the Noble Cause Corruption documents filed with the Public Disclosure Commission on April 27, 2016 and currently accessible online in articles called the Illusion of Inclusion series written by Juliette Daniels, and by other investigative writers such as Tip Johnson, David Camp at, and from extensive filings by the

This Noble Cause Corruption report is large – 196 pages. It is loaded here in three different PDF files since the files were cumbersome to email and download. There are many items of evidence and graphics inside the three Red, White and Yellow flaggeds Addendums 1-2-3.

This report was compiled and written by Joy Gilfilen, the President of the Restorative Community Coalition. Her goal was to provide a compendium of evidence to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission and the WA State Attorney General’s Office to back up the original complaint filed by the 15 different people in the 2015 PDC Case #1122 related to Whatcom County Jail Tax on the ballot. This was a complex case that had civil rights and ethics issues included together with specific complaints about the misuse of facilities by the elected officials who were running the campaign and violations related to the illegal mailer sent out by the Whatcom County corporation to taxpayers. That mailer was delivered the same weekend that the ballots were delivered, and the mailer was sent to specific lists of select voters.

PDC Case #1122 was filed against the Whatcom County Prosecutor, the Whatcom County Executive and the Whatcom County Sheriff alleging that the way that these top three elected law enforcement officials were operating the jail tax campaign in violation of election law. Ultimately, this was took a good year to investigate by the State, and County Executive Jack Louws was found to be responsible and in violation of State Campaign Laws. He was fined $1000 personally, with $500 held for a probationary period of five years from the finding. The determination is still available on the PDC website, and is downloadable as a PDF with 1031 pages.

This Noble Cause Corruption still stands as a taxpayer’s report of facts about how these top 3 officials worked together to go around the taxpayer’s who were simply asking for transparency and for their concerns to be addressed during the campaign to pass the tax. Subsequently that 2015 tax failed; and the Executive Branch teamed up again, to try to compel the taxpayers to pass a tax in 2017 – for the same plan. That tax, was rejected by the taxpayers. The taxpayers have clearly spoken that they was justice system reform and a reduction in incarceration rates.

Discover why Whatcom County is A Pioneer in jail reform.
Our Community refuses to endorse mass incarceration, because privateering is the business model that underlays it. It creates A profiteering motive that undercuts the local economy, harms citizens and their families, consumes taxpayer dollars and creates poverty. This is born out by statistics and deep research. This video is A short course that explains the problem to the average person. This powerpoint was created for civic education, so that the community could understand the school to prison pipeline from a business standpoint.

Please say no to building bigger jails and instead invest in restorative economic solutions.


To: Whatcom County Council and Council Members for the Lummi and Nooksack Nations
Council Members from Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack, Everson, Blaine, Sumas

From: Joy Gilfilen, President
Restorative Community Coalition

RE: Please pass a vote of No Confidence – Urgent Call to Action to Fix the Jail

Council members, our Whatcom County Charter calls for a balance of power between branches of government to be maintained1. Today this balance has been distorted to allow the Executive Branch of Whatcom County Government unprecedented power. That is a problem only rectified if the local legislative, judicial and municipal branches of government do their part to hold this Executive Branch accountable to their oaths of office.

Please stand up for balanced government. Stand up to protect the taxpayer’s rights. Stand up against the corporate abuse of power as it has been exerted by the Whatcom County Executive Branch: they continue to push for another sales tax even as they maintain “emergency conditions” inside the jail, harming friends, relatives, our neighbors.

Our Whatcom County Executive branch continues to:

  • Avoid holding public hearings before lawmakers – so you are inadequately apprised of issues
  • Avoid full disclosure of critical facts – so that lawmakers cannot make fully informed decisions
  • Ignore the lack of a valid needs assessment – limiting your comprehension of the problem
  • Refuse to present fiscal alternatives to building a new jail – which restricts your choices
  • Operates in bad faith on contracts with the cities – like when the taxpayers said no to the jail tax in 2015, rather than listen and give a good faith attempt to solve the illegal and inhumane conditions in the jail (as due their contracts with the municipalities), they instead have been pushing to produce another convoluted, incomplete and unacceptable financial agreement. For the 2nd time they have created a similar manufactured fast track negotiating timeline to compel your compliance with their demands. (In 2015 they used this same ‘stakeholders’ strategy to convince cities to agree to a presumptive business agreement while indirectly gaining your unwitting endorsement of the tax…which means you are “ganging up” on the taxpayers.) This makes you an accomplice to passing a deceptive and expensive tax…that is literally building prison walls around us against our will.

This is not right. Please pass a “no confidence” vote against the Whatcom County Executive Branch for failing to adequately manage the current jail, and for failing to present an honest, fair and complete alternative plan to the Council, to the voters. Their plan to build a jail on LaBounty Road in Ferndale is out of order and violates the sacred trust of the citizens.

  1. It is fiscally deceptive. There is no fiscal impact analysis for the taxpayers to analyze. The real cost of the jail is more likely to be $250 Million not $110 Million, according to Executive Louws in the stakeholders meeting.2 The secondary impacts of operating expenses, transportation, road improvements, legislative and administrative costs have not been calculated. In a county with 200,000 men, women and children this is the height of fiscal irresponsibility. This is unsustainable on its face.
  2. There is no proven basis to justify “the plan”3. There is No Needs Assessment and the Sheriff cannot even tell us who is in the jail as a charged felon, a convicted felon, or as pre-trial or convicted misdemeanants. This is evidence of basic jail mismanagement and fiduciary failure. At the minimum the Sheriff should know who is in his jail, for he states in a letter to Executive Louws4 that “(the Sheriff) is responsible for the operations of the jail.” The Sheriff also says, “The County Facilities Division is responsible for the maintenance and the assessment of the physical condition of the facility.” There have been no public hearings to challenge the mismanagement of the jail by the Sheriff and the Executive, nor to challenge the Prosecutor for not using prosecutorial discretion to reduce the overcrowding caused by non-violent offenders pursuant to WCC 1.28.100. Instead, the Executive branch has been using fear of “catastrophic failures” and allegations of “dangerous felons” to force the public to pass a tax. This is further proof of mismanagement and abuse of power by this branch. Who is ultimately in responsible charge of the inhumane and illegal conditions that continue to exist in our jail?
  3. Citizens’ concerns about fiscal impacts, and about moving the Sheriff’s office and the jail out of the County Seat were administratively dismissed (along with hundreds of other concerns) as being “outside the scope” of planning.5 This was done in the Final Environmental Impact Statement by the jail planners working in tandem with the Executive branch. Repeated citizen requests for accountability and for an alternative to building a huge jail outside of downtown were systematically dismissed without evidence, without hearing, using circular reasoning, or completely without adequate study. As a result, the real (civic, economic, business and jurisdictional) impacts of moving the County Seat have not been measured. The familial, physical, economic and social impacts on inmates and their families have not been considered. No comprehensive analysis was done.On page FS-2, they state “Under the No Action Alternative it is assumed that the current facilities (the main jail in downtown Bellingham and the work center in Bellingham) would continue to be used.” Then there is no additional backup research done in the FEIS to show how that could happen. On November 11, 2013 when presenting a fast track summary of the FEIS to the County Council, both Executive Louws and DLR Group tell the County Council that “No public Hearing is required” before you (the Council) are legally able to purchase the land in 10 days from the date they published the FEIS report to the web (Nov. 8, 2013). (Coincidentally that is the same 10 days they had an option to purchase the LaBounty property or it would expire). Inevitably, this put the Council under pressure and duress to buy the land in the remaining 7-day high pressure timeframe. With no public hearings needed, the land was purchased summarily at a value of about $150,000 an acre – for 40 acres, rough half of which would need another $10 Million in mitigation before the land could even be built on. This is abuse of power.
  1. Failed due process, failed contract management.6 The public paid millions of dollars for studies, a promised Needs Assessment, and for the EIS, SDEIS and FEIS reports which were designed to provide two alternatives. Taxpayers did their job. Yet these reports are flawed. They did not
    deliver to the public what was expected. Taxpayers repeatedly asked for accountability:

    • Did not get a Needs Assessment to replace the flawed report that projected a 2400 bed jail.
    • Asked that the downtown jail be fixed immediately to be humane and safe – it wasn’t.
    • In 2015 voters rejected the Jail Tax, saying no new jail – instead we are being pressured again.
    • Asked for fiscal analysis and reports of options – there has been no response.
    • Need recovery housing, mental/behavioral health solutions – very little action.
    • Need inclusion/transparency in due process – instead voices have been deliberately excluded
    • Need decency and fiduciary accountability to the inmates, family, and citizens – no response.

Instead we’ve got another convoluted agreement that is out of order, that is intended to convince all of us to pass another jail tax under pressure. We taxpayers now know that building a jail by going into unsustainable debt will not solve the underlying problems we have. Taxpayers demand more. We need honesty. We need transparency. We need facts. We need public hearings. We need solutions…not a bigger hole to fall into.

Maybe our representatives should stop negotiating with an Executive branch that is operating in bad faith. You are the lawmakers. You are the citizen’s only line of defense to protect our constitutional rights and to hold our executive/financial branches accountable to their fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities.

Businesses work on facts. The democratic government should likewise work on facts. All of the cities and tribal nations have written contracts with Whatcom County, expecting their arrested citizens to be cared for in a safe and humane manner. When that County fails to live up to their responsibilities, then you are obligated to hold the County to those contracts and to local, state and federal laws. By doing nothing, you are defacto condoning the mismanagement of the jail and are party to the ongoing violation of civil rights that are happening inside the jail.

Right now, you are in a position to look at the long-term impact of the decisions you make today, and to think about what your legacy will be 30 years from now. Your choice is to lead with other Washington State Counties7 in criminal justice reform and fiscal responsibility, or to make a decision that puts Whatcom County further behind in criminal justice reform and deeper in debt than a county this size can support.

Here are things that can be done.

  1. Make the Executive branch officials do the work we entrusted (and paid) them) to do. Top Priority: Fix the Jail! Get us out of crisis management.
  2. Do a Needs Assessment and a fiscal analysis of options that provides adequate and rational data
  3. Hold cross silo town halls and public hearings on the location, on the impact of technology on corrections options today, on different solutions to heal people from trauma, addiction and mental illness
  4. Examine economic development alternatives that include recovery housing, business incubators, small town cooperatives that inspire free enterprise and renewable industry
  5. Let the Incarceration and Prevention Task Force & the Vera Institute deliver their substantive findings and recommendations on how our members of the law and justice system can streamline the administration of our courts, police and law and justice systems. Help them help us all intercept and then stop inadvertent waste that creeps into all bureaucracies over time
  6. Invite local non-profits and others to present proposals, projects and ideas about how to fix the deeper problems so we can reverse the trends of creating more laws and more concrete walls that lock people up instead of mentoring people to freedom

There are choices. There are options. We are a community, and our community needs leaders.
Please join us in changing course.


1 Whatcom County Charter adopted effective May 1, 1979

2 Executive Jack Louws at Whatcom County Stakeholders Meeting

3 Illusion of Inclusion series of articles in Northwest Citizen by Juliette Daniels starting May 11, 2017

4 Letter from Sheriff Elfo to Executive Louws re: Jail by Sheriff Bill Elfo April 22, 2015

5 Final Environmental Impact Statement dated Nov. 8, 2013 – appendix G – over 100 pages.

6 Examine the EIS, SDEIS, FEIS, and the ongoing public records for written and oral public comments repeatedly given to the Whatcom County Council, to the Jail Task Force, to Jay Farbstein, to the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force from 2011 to 2017.

7 “Evidence Based Jail Planning Processes” series of four articles on by Juliette Daniels – starting June 13, 2017

Business is not what you Think It Is!

Art Sherwood, IDEA Institute – WWU

Social Benefit Corporations are a powerful way to implement restorative economics.

As time changes all things, authentic justice is finding its way into social, business and civic understanding. The fact is that business models, methods and ways of doing business are changing the landscape of how people measure accountability, how we assess integrity, and how we operate in a constantly changing, fast-paced, global economic and technological world.

Art Sherwood has a really great way of discussing how new business models are emerging as old business models transform with the marketplace demand. Restorative economics was part of the ReImaging Whatcom County Beyond Mass Incarceration Conference.

Our innovative solutions require a market based approach that integrates collaborative leadership with new cooperative business designs. New cooperatives become cross-siloed groups working together for community renewal with sustainable benefits to the whole, which includes restorative justice, social and economic accountability.

This was an pre-recorded presentation for the Restorative Community Coalition by Art Sherwood for the Nov 5, 2016 conference. As the David Cole Professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business and Economics at Western Washington University, Dr. Sherwood is the director of Western’s IDEA Institute (InterDisciplinary Entrepreneurship in Action), an Affiliated Faculty of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop on Political Theory and Political Theory and Policy Analysis and co-founder of the Cooperative Business Research Institute.

His key highlights are that new solutions are emerging as a grassroots movement for strategic economic development: business is not always about shareholders, but it is becoming about putting people first! Thank you to Art for conveying how rich the future is!

June 13, 2016 ·

This former
CIA officer’s
secret life

taught her one lesson:
~Listen ~
to your enemy.

This is exactly why I have stood up and written the Stop Punishing Taxpayers, Start Rebuilding Community Report, why I filed the Noble Cause Corruption Complaint and more. These reports are about tackling the systems and policies that are out of whack and working as people to correct the systemic failures.

Our systems have become corrupted because we confuse the story of fear with what is really happening, and we are being victimized and manipulated by the stories…

~Joy Gilfilen, June 13, 2016

This former CIA officer’s secret life taught her one lesson:

CIA officer’s
secret life

taught her one lesson:
~Listen ~
to your enemy.

This is exactly why I have stood up and written the Stop Punishing Taxpayers, Start Rebuilding Community Report, why I filed the Noble Cause Corruption Complaint and more.

These reports are about tackling the systems and policies that are out of whack~and working as people~to correct the systemic failures.

Our systems have become corrupted because we confuse the story of fear with what is really happening, and we are being victimized and manipulated by the stories…

~Joy Gilfilen, June 13, 2016

Our Coalition was founded in 2006 to help hundreds of clients

restore their standing with their families after an arrest and jailing.

~Costs of incarceration for ONE PERSON a year in Washington State is: $51,775!!! And rising!

  • Our Coalition has shown that instead, just educating someone at $1500

to help get them back into the workforce, turns the problem upside down!

People can reenter – BACK to THEIR LIVES!!!

Our Freedom Farm – Started with a ‘Freedom Garden’ Experiment
and now we imagine working with a Sustainable Farm

We have a plan to build a farm where people who are re-entering society after incarceration could come be rehabilitated and re-learn how the world works in a realistic, functional way.
Our business plan calls for:

  • Bunkhouse and tiny home type housing on site with a community gathering center and workshop areas that are outside as well as inside.
  • An education center, community food processing area and kitchen.
  • An organic farm with a fruit orchard and working fields, and space to construct things, take things apart and learn by doing hands on work.

The goal is to build a publicly accessible community education and sustainable working farm that could be used for teaching functional living skills on many different levels.

We have a plan to build a farm where people who are re-entering society after incarceration could come be rehabilitated and re-learn how the world works in a realistic, functional way. Our business plan calls for housing on site, for an fruit orchard and working fields, for a training center and workshop areas so that we can build a sustainable working farm that could be used for teaching functional living skills on many different levels.

Our population, being people with criminal histories has some challenges that we have to overcome given that we are having to teach people often from the ground up how to relearn life. Therefore, we looked for a bridge…a way to learn the scope of the challenges we would face to achieve the results we want. Today, we have a scope of work and a sample of three different kinds of properties that would work for us. Contact us for more about this, or check back for updates as we have time to load the information into the website.

Freedom Gardens Pilot Project – Summer of 2014

Freedom Farm

In the meantime, to get our feet wet, in April 2014 the Coalition applied for and was awarded a $500 grant from WSU Extension Services to purchase garden tools, sprinklers and hoses that we could use to start the project. As our pilot project it was a learning curve that turned out to be quite valuable and productive for ten volunteers. It gave us a better sense of what it is going to take to get this size of project off the ground. Bottomline, it takes planning, a long vision, teamwork and a small dedicated group of committed people who can be onsite and experienced at working with people who have a learning curve about responsibility.

Here is what happened, and what we learned:

  • We had a ¾ acre garden plot available that was donated for our use by Ray Littlefield, a local farmer-gardener. Ray did a terrific job of setting up the garden, so that our volunteers and people in our program could go out, help him, and help each other learn how to connect to the earth and produce healthy and nutritious fresh food. Some of our members came out worked to prepare the soil, plant, weed, water, maintain the grounds and harvest the food.
  • We learned that having a mentor and guidance was critical to success of the project. And, that experienced leadership in gardening was critical to success or failure of different crops. Planning for the seasons, for the weather, for replanting and cycles is experience based.
  • We learned that we also had to have a different kind of mentorship and leadership managing the volunteers and work crew. It became obvious that when the weather called, or the crops came in that we had to be prepared in advance for the workload. This meant that we had to be adaptive to the natural world, and we needed serious backup when people could not do the work they committed to do. Gardens do not wait for people to “feel like it”. So that means that we need people who are committed to the project and who are willing to see it all the way through the season.
  • We learned that it is important to have the gardens in an area of easy access, where it was easy to come and go; that we needed to have tools readily available, and yet these same tools had to be cared for, kept in a safe location..and we had to teach responsibility and care of supplies.
  • This first garden was located on Northwest Road about 5 miles north of Bellingham. As a result there was a travel time issue that was challenging to get people to go out to work for short times. The commute was too challenging unless people had their own cars. Many of our clients are carless – so we needed to organize way in advance to make it work well.
  • Results: At harvest we gleaned a lot of produce for our clients. We also shared with the Food Bank! It was surprising how many people were fed from a small plot of land.

Freedom Farm Bottomline: The biggest takeaway is that we now know for sure that this environment is perfect for our client base. The learning curve is broad and cyclical, it is both forgiving and not forgiving, and the experiences of growing food is incredibly satisfying for people who work through the growing season. It was a tremendous learning process for us all in learning the gaps in knowledge, in scheduling and in understanding people.

What we learned is that for our client base, it is critical that our projects be on a bus lines, with realistic access to the city. We also need easy access to the tools and we need field supervision and people who truly can be handy to mentor new people who want to help but don’t know how.

In the Freedom Farm big picture: We want at least 5 to 10 acres of land with barns, facilities, a greenhouse, field space for gardens. Our goal is to teach cooking, food preparation, whole food recipes, storing, canning and preserving. We could easily include classes presented by WSU Extension and the Master Gardener program. We also have all our tools and are ready for the funding and support to make this project a reality.

If you have donations, would like to partner up with us, or to get more information call Irene Morgan at 360-354-3653 or email the RCC.

Jail reform is the solution living in the roots of mass incarceration as a business model.

Bernie Sanders understands this and gives us insight into how much out of balance we are.

He is standing up to help fight mass criminalization of our youth, our displaced and our homeless – because criminalizing people is done for the economic benefit of corporations. This is an interview from a Young Turks News show where Bernie talks about the US’s lead in incarceration and why it must be turned around..

Reclaiming Lives

This 4-minute video shows why
Restorative Community Coalition is Standing Up for Inmates Recovery, Jail Reform and Restorative Economics

Growing a healthy society is an individual, family, business and community matter. This video is about the individual impacts of excessive incarceration (without rehabilitation) on real people. We describe why it is cost effective and essential to reclaim people from the penal system as fast as possible. We share why the services we provide help create an interception, and helps with healing our local people, and in turn helps our communities recover from the negative ripple effects.

The Restorative Community Coalition was formerly known as the Whatcom County ReEntry Coalition. We changed our name to better reflect our commitment to solve the whole systems problems that came from the mass incarceration movement that started in the 1970’s. It has created a punishment-driven contrarian economic condition that has become dysfunctional. Caused by the side-effects of national privatization of prisons, the dysfunction has filtered down to affect our current system of justice. The effect has been to over-incarcerate, over-criminalize and then we have societal illness.

In the incarceration world there terms used that are specific:

Recidivism: The phrase used to describe the pattern of going back to prison after people are released. The recidivism rate is the measuring stick for how much people fail to leave the system.
Re-entry: This describes programs that are designed to help people re-enter society.

In working on these issues since 2006, we have discovered that it is far simpler and a better solution to implement preventive and early intervention strategies to stop people from entering the incarceration system in the first place. Once inside, the re-entry process is far more challenging and expensive to taxpayers. They have to recover from the emotional impact and trauma of incarceration, and then there are the workplace impacts that are further damaged inside the system.

A whole systems approach is far better:
1) Prevention & Early Education
2) Intervention, Rehabilitation & Redirection
3) ReEntry, Recovery, Retooling




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