The Restorative CommUnity Coalition

~Reclaiming Lives Since 2006~

Vote No Confidence – Fix Jail Now Letter

Irene then turned to helping others break free of our dysfunctional justice system, founding the Restorative Community Coalition in 2006. She turns 80 this week.


From the desk of Irene Morgan, Founder…

As many of you may know, I founded the Restorative CommUnity Coalition in 2006 and have been an advocate for the voiceless and underserved for the majority of my life.

This letter is written as a birthday gift to myself. I have a lot on my 80-year-old chest that needs to be delivered to the rightful owners, i.e., ‘The Operations’ within our ‘system.’ I am referring to: our politicians, government, especially the courts (the injustice system), the police (bringers of bodies/people to the injustice system), and the workers within all these categories (the slaves of ‘the system’).

There are only a very few who know or see this entire picture and know the roles that are played in this game. I’ve known for a very long time that there is ‘something’ wrong with how our society works. While nosing in and around the community, working and volunteering in non-profits for over three decades, I’ve gathered bits and pieces – building a picture of the nonsensical puzzle.

As a small child my family moved to a small farm in rural Whatcom County where I have lived for 75 years, so I have a very unique view, experience, and perspective of the history and, now, current events of this community.

I’ve sat in MANY meetings, presentations, and mappings, hearing and learning about the ‘continuum of care’ with the programs offered by the system. ‘The Operations’ of the system are VERY proud of the lists and the services they provide our citizens in need.

What ‘The Operations’ don’t tell us is that they are mostly token programs that serve a VERY few, and no, most people DO NOT have a ‘continuum of care.’ The barriers and cracks in the system that most experience keep them in a state of dysfunction and chaos, which from my experience is deliberate and contrived. WHY? To keep ‘the system’ intact because the system ‘works for the system’ – NOT the people going through the system.

While working with people with conviction histories, I’ve experienced myriad situations that defy common sense within ‘the system.’ A friend I’ve had for 10 years, with a mental health history, called me for help; he’d been arrested again. Long story short – I shared his experience of being dropped through crack after crack after crack! AND no one took responsibility for his or her failures. If I hadn’t been involved, ‘the system’ would have taken over and he would be back in jail – rotting – because ‘the system works – for the system.’ The most ridiculous thing is – it’s all fixable! It can be fixed with common sense: Fill the gaps! Take responsibility. Be accountable. Possibly the biggest hurdle is a change in attitude from the ‘Operations Department’ and the service providers.

There are many who look with disdain on our citizens who have conviction histories– using names like, bimbos, losers, frequent fliers, and worse. I’ve followed and helped dozens of these folks as a Court Navigator (a program I developed when I saw its value) and none of them would have been successful without our help. The trauma that comes from an arrest, the probable loss of a job, the fees and fines that rack up, are devastating. The chaos within the courts: public defenders, probation, myriad program appointments, treatment, etc. is almost impossible to navigate without support. The shame and depression that is experienced is debilitating. The relief and hope that comes from community support is truly awesome to experience.

Since the inception of Restorative CommUnity Coalition, I have been considered an intruder on the scene of the jail expansion efforts. I have been disrespected, shut down, uninvited, rejected, disallowed, and silenced by the powers that be. I have even been accused of taking a wrecking ball to a 20-year long jail growth project, for which I am VERY proud. I am devoted to being a voice for this insane 20th Century plan to cripple our county financially. Jails are closing down and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of empty jail beds in our state. The population in our jail needs to be reduced, yes, even more! Do your homework.

Our punitive “justice” system is archaic and demeaning and very lucrative. My goal is to educate and advocate for more ‘Defund Police’ funds to be used to expand these token programs into offering more support of this population so they can be the functional citizens we expect them to be AND they WANT to be! My vision for the ReStoreALife Center is one of the stopgaps needed. We have a long list of helpful programs and business plans for housing, employment, parenting, living skills, treatment, Restorative Justice circles, conflict resolution, emotional resilience and wellness training that can and should be implemented to solve these issues.

We, as citizens of Whatcom County, have an opportunity to raise our voices in support of this segment of our population. If more of them don’t have the chance to succeed – we ALL suffer – with more taxes (if that’s possible), less public safety, more crime, continued useless arrests, and failures of our courts. It creates an economic ball and chain that debilitates our seniors, middle class, and all segments of our community. Our current practices are NOT RIGHT.

If this gives you pause – or if it gives you hope – please contact us and see how you can join the masses knowing that your one-degree of change WILL make a difference.

Wishing you all Blessings and good health in ALL ways,

Irene Lincoln Morgan



Founder, Restorative Community Coalition

Reprinted from Northwest Citizen

This was the first debate held about the Prosecutor’s position in decades! The incumbent prosecutor retired and had held the position virtually without competition for 44 years! As a result, this was a powerful educational opportunity for the public to learn how two different professionals would approach the position and do their job.

Noble Cause Corruption Report

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.

Guest Opinion – Lynden Tribune – 01/25-2012

The Restorative Community Coalition has been working to get Washington State Department of Corrections to release people who have served their time with a legal identification when they leave prison. Today, they still leave with an prison badge, and are expected to cash their $40 release check with that as the only thing that a bank would see to confirm the person cashing the check is who they say they are. This is a huge reason that people are not able to return…they give up.

This article below was written by a Washington State Department of Corrections inmate from Whatcom County whose name is withheld, and was submitted to the Lynden Tribune in 2012 by Irene Morgan of the Whatcom County ReEntry Coalition (now Our goal is to support people who are recovering from the aftereffects of being involved with the law and justice system. “For each person who is successful, that is a $35,019 savings per year. Is this a possible solution for our out-of-balance system?” she asks.

Inmate’s Prisoner Identity Badge doesn’t work for legal identification.

By an inmate who was serving time from Whatcom County.

History has a way of repeating itself. We can learn a lot from it. At the end of World War I, Germany surrendered unconditionally. Along with that came economic sanctions and reparations so outlandish in nature that Germany couldn’t possibly survive. John Maynard Keynes, a young British economist at the time, was so shocked by the hearings that in 1919 he wrote a book titled “The Consequence of The Peace.” Keynes asserted that Germany’s inability to comply with the treaty would eventually turn ugly. He made it clear that Europe would forever be scarred by the shortsighted policy of the three-nation panel, made up of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, that penned the Treaty of Versailles. It was also noted that Germany, unable to meet the rigorous demands, would most certainly revert back to the same situation they got into, to begin with — war, and so they did.

Is there a chance that Germany might have reentered the world arena peacefully with a policy more tailored toward success than failure? Arguably, yes.

So let’s look at some of the questions as they pertain to bad policy in our justice system today. Recidivism is at an all-time high, while public safety budgets are at historic lows. Three out of every four felons released from prison re-offend and return to state and federal prison facilities within three years of being released. Most go back for the same type of behavior that sent them away in the first place.

Annually, $36,000 is spent in taxes just to house just one inmate.

Can we afford not to ask some questions:

  • Is our policy shortsighted?
  • Is it lacking the balance to achieve its goal?
  • Is it outdated? Does it work?
  • Are there any easy solutions?
  • All these questions, and many more need to be asked by you and me.

Let’s look at a few of the obstacles a person releasing from prison faces.

Identification is one thing most of us take for granted. Let’s face it, who doesn’t have ID? What would it be like if you didn’t have usable identification? The truth is that most people getting out of prison are unable to obtain a valid Washington State ID card. What they do have is a Washington State Department of Corrections Badge that clearly says ‘OFFENDER’ #123456 in big bold letters. The Department of Licensing does not honor it as valid proof of self unless accompanied with an e-letter from DOC on file for 60 days. You can’t cash a check with it, rent a motel room or apartment and you sure wouldn’t want to use it when seeking employment!

Something as simple as a valid ID would give a returning citizen a giant advantage in making the positive steps needed as they attempt to overcome extreme obstacles. What about transportation? Our community has a wonderful transit system in place. It is used to get to and from work, school, and a number of other daily tasks. People returning to the community are required to be at appointments on time and seek employment. Transportation plays a crucial role in whether or not a person can realistically meet the demands of their release plan. A simple monthly bus pass program for releasing offenders would be a crucial component in a positive and successful transition. It could be the difference between being unemployable and being gainfully employed.

Such matters, among many, are the problems people like myself face as we re-enter society. I am releasing to your community in July and I’m well aware of the challenges that I and all other convicted felons face when we are released. I’ve written this letter as an educational tool, one that may bring up just a few of the unseen issues and questions as we talk about budgets and shortfalls. Is there a direct correlation between shortsighted policy and recidivism? I say Yes!

I believe everyone has a responsibility to come together and look for solutions to the problems we face as a community. We need a real balance in our system, one that benefits everyone. I’m doing everything in my power to be a good neighbor and a contributing part of the solution upon my release. I don’t want to return to a prison system that I’ve given 25 years to. Today, I choose freedom!

Can I count on some of you to help out? I urge everyone who may be in a position to rent to, hire or even just mentor a person honestly trying to stop the cycle through our prisons, to do so. Please! Everyone deserves a chance if they’re willing to work for it. Why not be part of the solution? There would be fewer problems. History says that, put in the correct environment, success is a truth!

Speaking generally, prisons take and hold inmates while jails—if run properly—take and release them. A jail is a county or city facility to house—on a short-term basis—misdemeanant offenders, felony offenders serving short terms, felony offenders awaiting transfer to a state prison for long-term sentences and indigent pretrial defendants who are unable to make bail.

A prison—by contrast—is a state or federal facility that houses long-term felony offenders.

Another basic agreed-upon set of facts must include an accurate accounting of who is in the jail at any given time and the status of each inmate— whether misdemeanant, short term felon, long-term felon awaiting transfer to state prison, and/or indigent defendants held pretrial for inability to pay bail. This information about the inmates in the current County jail should be provided over a specified period of time—such as a month. That “snapshot” of the jail population over time is a basic building block of a valid Needs Assessment. Current jail management has been unwilling or unable to provide that basic information about the inmates in their care, custody and control—despite years of requests to do so. The Sheriff’s apparent inability to provide this information about the County Jail population should concern all of our elected officials and citizens.

By Juliette DanielsOn Jul 08, 2017

Analysis of the County Executive’s Proposal against Repair of the Existing Jail

The Fiscally-Responsible Alternative: Renovate the Existing County Jail

A scant majority of County and City Council members currently support compelling voters to a second vote (in as many years) on an extra two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax to fund a new jail. Going forward, debate on the merits of this tax proposal should rest upon some basic agreed facts. For example: the definition of a jail. Council members supporting the increased tax seem to assume that a jail is the same as a prison. The current proposed (and expandable) County plan for the LaBounty Road facility is for construction of a prison—not a jail.

The debate over this tax and the County’s proposed plan should also include agreement on the definition of Diversion—which does not apply to a prison. Diversion is only available to reduce the inmate population of a jail. Our County Elected Officials have co-opted the term diversion, by touting all the social services and medical treatment that the new “jail” will provide inmates. This notion warps understanding. Diversion—by definition—keeps people out of jail in the first place, such as those whose primary problems are homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and poverty. Inmates lose Medicaid coverage the moment they are incarcerated, so every effort should be to divert those who need medical treatment out of jail and into an appropriate medical facility. In addition, inmates held pretrial—some because they simply cannot afford bail—should not constitute the majority of inmates in the County Jail.

Where does the buck stop? Should those accountable for current jail conditions dominate the debate over the solutions?

Where there does appear to be agreement on basic facts is on the inadequate conditions in the County Jail to humanely house inmates, and that those conditions have worsened over time for lack of appropriate management and maintenance. Failure to provide humane housing for inmates in the Whatcom County Jail has been an issue raised by the Sheriff (ostensibly responsible for jail operations) and others for years—yet the conditions persist.

Instead of using available funds to fix the Jail, the Sheriff, Executive and Prosecuting Attorney have repeatedly insisted—without actual proof—that the current County Jail cannot be fixed and the only solution to that problem is a new jail. Meanwhile, deferred maintenance of the jail and consequent deterioration of the facility has continued, even while the County spent millions in 2013 to buy the LaBounty Road property and to design a prison-like facility with included services that should be offered outside of Jail to facilitate diversion.

So far, the Sheriff, County Executive and Prosecuting Attorney have controlled the jail planning process and they have started at the end—with a fully-designed prison facility on LaBounty Road—and have worked backward from there. This process problem is exemplified by the struggle of the Jail Stakeholders Workgroup, which was to draft a Jail Facility Use Agreement (“Agreement”) that allocated capital costs on the County Jail (without addressing the size, location and cost of the facility) and allocation of revenues to the County and the City—without any assurance that there will, in fact, be any funds left over under the County Executive’s current vague projections of capital and operating costs of his new facility.

The Workgroup was led swiftly by the Executive to “mission creep,” when the final draft of the Agreement specified the following “agreed” facts: (1) The County intends to build, own and operate a new Jail located on LaBounty Road in Ferndale; (2) the initial size (Phase I—the project is expandable) will be up to 453 beds with another 36 medical and behavioral health facility beds; (3) the County will place the Sales Tax Measure on the General Election Ballot no later than November 7, 2017; (4) the $110,100,000 estimated project cost is “preliminary;” and (5) the County will issue bonds to finance the Jail.

The preliminary estimate of $110,100,000 (according to the County Executive) establishes the cities’ payments back to the County for the first 3 or 4 years until the TOTAL COST of the jail is known and then there is a “true up” mechanism which allows for the actual cost of construction to be paid back over the 30 years amortization.

To summarize, the County and all signatory cities have all signed blank checks to saddle taxpayers with the costs of moving the jails to a prison on LaBounty Road in Ferndale, despite no real discussion of any alternative locations (or renovation of the existing jail). There is an “agreed upon” size, which is simply a starting point. It is no victory that the initial bed estimate is now (reduced) to up to 453 beds when it is based upon an expandable pod design with no explicit limits on future expansion. There is no limit on the cost of this project, or any seeming concern on the part of our elected officials that there will be an unknown “true up” three years into this project to reflect the actual total cost, for which the parties (and more specifically, the County taxpayers) will be responsible. In addition, there will be bonds issued to finance the project, but there has been no analysis of the debt capacity of Whatcom County—and the ability of the County’s 200,000 men, women and children to pay this debt back over the next 30 years.

The County CEO, the Sheriff and the Prosecuting Attorney must be held to a higher standard of care both in addressing the current inhumane conditions in the jail, and in leading a transparent discussion about whether or not to build a new jail or renovate the existing jail. Instead, they have bulldozed all opposition to lead the Jail Stakeholders Group and Bellingham City and County Councils inexorably toward a move of our current Civic Center to Ferndale, for an expandable jail with a vague cost estimate as a “placeholder,” and an actual cost to be determined years from now.

Whatcom County already has two jails: It’s Time to Renovate the Downtown Bellingham County Jail and Continue Operation of the Irongate Facility

In October 2016, Whatcom County commissioned and released an engineering report on the existing County Jail. Prior to this report by design2LAST, inc. (the “Engineering Report”), the County had no engineering study evaluating the integrity of the existing downtown Bellingham Jail. The Engineering Report found the downtown jail facility to be in fair to good condition.

The Engineering Report described the Irongate (or Division Street) minimum security facility as in “excellent condition.”

The Engineering Report outlines deficiencies in the existing jail that are “fixable.” There is a maintenance backlog, and the facility needs seismic upgrades. The Engineering Report states that:

The infill concrete masonry unit walls that we observed were all in good condition. Concrete masonry units are usually sensitive to building movement and will show signs of cracking even with minor settlement or distortion. The concrete unit masonry walls we observed did not show signs of distress.” [Engineering Report, page 48-49]

This is the County’s own report, and it refutes descriptions of the jail conditions promoted by the Sheriff and the Executive for years—used to support their new jail/prison in Ferndale. The County’s Engineering Report concludes that the existing County jail is in fair to good condition, and that repair and/or renovation is a viable option to allow for decades of use.

While the Executive Summary of the Engineering Report states that a new jail is needed, that summary statement is unsupported by any details that follow in the report. The Engineering report estimates that it would cost $32.4 million to repair and use the two jails that we already have for the next 20 years.

The County must consider this fiscally-responsible alternative to a new jail, and alternatives to incarceration that are already saving capital and operational costs.

Juliette Daniels

Writer • Member since May 11, 2017

Juliette is a licensed attorney in both Washington state and Texas. After spending 15 years working in litigation for two large Houston law firms, she moved to Bellingham in 2004 and eventually became interested in studying and writing about Whatcom County government and its criminal justice system. Juliette holds a BJ in communications and news journalism from the University of Texas at Austin; and a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

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


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




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