Our first webinar for the National Association for Public Defense, which “engages all public defense professionals into a clear and focused voice to address the systemic failure to provide the constitutional right to counsel, and to collaborate with diverse partners for solutions that bring meaningful access to justice for poor people.”
In partnership with Vashon community organizations Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and Backbone Campaign, and 14 local businesses, the storytelling and advocacy organization, Living with Conviction presents a Community Conversation with formerly incarcerated individuals on August 5, 2018 from 4:00 to 6:00pm at the Vashon Maury Land Trust, 10014 SW Bank Rd, Vashon, WA 98070. The Conversation focuses on “legal financial obligations” (LFOs) that courts impose on criminal defendants at the time of sentencing. Until recently, 12% interest has been accruing on this debt from the date of sentencing. Failure to make monthly payments can result in re-incarceration, without the assistance of counsel.
Leading up to this Conversation is a Community Gallery Walk from July 8 through August 5, 2018, showcasing 14 portraits and personal stories of formerly incarcerated individuals, hosted at 14 local businesses. The portraits and personal stories highlight fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and grandparents all struggling to survive and thrive, while also challenging the stereotype of what it means to be a “felon.”
Participating organizations and businesses include Vashon Public Library; SAW - Starving Artist Works; Pure Organic Kitchen & Juicery; Gravy Vashon; Vashon Print & Design; Giraffe; Vashon Bookshop; Gather Vashon; Treasure Island; Zamorana; Snapdragon; Raven's Nest; Rock It!; Vashon Island Baking Company.
In June 2018, Governor Inslee signed into law the removal of the 12% interest accrual on non-restitution-related LFOs – a tremendous improvement. But now, each of the thousands of individuals with accrued interest must petition the court for a waiver of that interest. In doing so, the Washington State legislature just increased the demand for free legal aid.
On June 7, 2018, House Bill 1783 became effective. What that means is that there is no more 12% interest imposed on newly convicted individuals and no more interest accrual on existing LFOs, excluding victim restitution!
This is a huge improvement. But significantly, it is not retroactive. So everyone with LFOs, including all the participants on this project, still owe what they owe. And the interest already accrued does not go away.
Every single individual with non-restitution LFOs now has to go to court to request a waiver of their interest. And yet, there is little legal aid available to assist and even less for those who need an interpreter.
So while we CELEBRATE, we are also not going to forget about everyone with accrued interest. Stay tuned!
Once again, the House of Representatives of the Washington State Legislature introduced the LFO Reform Bill, which would eliminate the 12% interest, among other improvements. The House again passed the bill yeas, 86; nays, 12. The bill is now in the Senate with the hearing before the Law and Justice Committee on February 7, 2018 at 10am.