The Restorative CommUnity Coalition

~Reclaiming Lives Since 2006~

Letter to Sheriff Bill Elfo Regarding Copyright Infringement and Libel – Supporting Our Members

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.

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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

 

360-354-3653

Founder, Restorative Community Coalition

TheRestorativeCommunity.org

Reprinted from Northwest Citizen

Wow! Check out this County in Oregon! While Whatcom County could easily have been the leader in justice reform, we just got ACE’s by Multnomah! Whatcom County could learn from them! And there is more to do, if the County will stop pretending that they need to build a jail – a public safety building – instead of providing the public’s safety! People need help right now more than ever! Follow the new leaders, and then learn and change!

https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2020/06/multnomah-county-budget-calls-for-jail-dorm-closure-cuts-to-sheriffs-and-das-offices-suspension-of-parole-probation-fees.html?

Wapato Jail – a real boondoggle for Oregon. What a huge waste of taxpayers dollars, and a nightmare for the community. The County overbuilt the jail. They oversold the jail industry plan and convinced the civic leaders to buy the plan.

This whole boondoggle caused huge problems for taxpayers. Now it is likely to be demolished. This is a real lesson for Whatcom County taxpayers to not buy the Whatcom County law enforcement elected officials story that they need a new jail. We need accountability, not more taxes.

Our September Newsletter is all about local events of immediate interest:

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.

Statement on Nationwide Prison Strike

NEW YORK, NY – Today, incarcerated men and women in prisons across 17 states began a 19 day strike to draw attention to the poor conditions they face and to demand change for all those who live and work in prisons across the country.

Nicholas Turner, President of the Vera Institute of Justice, released the following statement:

“Our country has a long and fraught history of dehumanizing incarceration, rooted in racial oppression. The fundamental experience remains one of hardship and isolation that produces irreparable harm. It is imperative that Americans listen closely to the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. Through the Nationwide Prison Strike, the committee and its allies are forcefully protesting conditions that affect the lives of 2.2 million people who are locked up, their families and their communities. These are conditions that the American public has neglected – malignly – for years. Different from other elements of justice reform where people can see evidence that undermines the flawed assumptions that the system is working – videos of police brutality, imposition of bail in public courtrooms – most people are blind when it comes to prison conditions. What happens behind those grey walls is obscured from public view. This is what the committee is telling us.

Radical change and reimagining is needed—not only to disrupt the habit of current practices, but also to break with historical legacy. We stand with the men and women in prisons nationwide who are peacefully advocating for their rights, and we urge the reshaping of the practice of imprisonment by grounding it in a foundational commitment to human dignity.”

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 www.therestorativecommunity.org. 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.

https://nwcitizen.com/entry/repair-the-jail/writer/2964

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.

On November 5th, we went and sent a letter to Prosecutor McEachran, WA State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the WA State Public Disclosure Commission asking for a Special Prosecutor be assigned to investigate the many election law violations in promotion of Prop 2017-1. Our request references multiple WA State codes that the Prosecutor take immediate action to protect the citizens of this community.

RCC Jail McEachran

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.

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