MISMANAGEMENT  = SYSTEMIC PATTERNS OF POVERTY

After analyzing data about Whatcom County’s Justice system for the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force, dated November 2017, the Vera Institute of Justice published a report that identified “the following factors contributing to jail overuse in Whatcom County:

  • Most admissions (62%) into the jail had non-felony charges as the most serious charge.
  • Charges related to substance use are a significant driver of both admissions and lengths of stay.
  • People who are pre-trial make up a significant portion of the Average Daily Population of the jail.
  • It is likely that some of the people in the jail have behavioral health needs that would be better served in the community Nearly one-third (32%) of people  admitted to jail were referred to jail behavioral health services.
  • The Whatcom County Superior, District, and Bellingham Municipal Courts are not meeting prescribed time standards for resolving cases.
  • Native American, Black, and Hispanic people are over-represented in the jail population.”

Our Coalition has been interviewing people who have been arrested, jailed and who have gone through the justice system.  We have found that at the street level analysis that virtually all the people who get arrested for non-violent situations, are getting arrested because they are emotionally hurting in the first place.  Their emotional vulnerability caused them to make a mistake of some kind that turned into an accident or unfortunate incident.  Specifically they may have used poor judgement, were impaired by self-medicating with alcohol or with legal or illegal drugs, or they were distressed and dealing with an emotional upheaval in their life.

We found that a high number of these people would be far better served by being diverted out of the “jail and punishment based system” to get help with emotional resilience, conflict resolution, social coping and life skills.  It would yield a far better return to the citizens, to their families and to our community rather than throwing them into a destructive spiral that causes them to losing their capacity to get back to work.

Reading the chart above shows the debilitating sequence of destruction that afflicts families after a family member makes a mistake and gets into trouble by an arrest and jailing.

It is counterproductive to a healthy community, and directly contributes to poverty.

About Joy Gilfilen

Joy Gilfilen is a speaker, facilitator and executive business coach in the fields of leadership empowerment, intentional systems change and civic health. Joy became President of the Restorative Community Coalition in 2010 committed to researching the impacts of the jail industry on humans. As she discovered the self-destructive nature of punishment as a cultural norm, she began studying how to reverse engineer the problems using restorative economics as the tool.

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