KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Bill by WA Democrats releases scores of murderers from jail early

Mar 27, 2023, 6:00 PM

Democrat bill...

State Rep. David Hackney (D-Tukwila) speaking during the Housing Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee. (Screenshot via TVW)

(Screenshot via TVW)

If a new Democrat-backed bill is passed, we could see the early release of hundreds of violent offenders, including murderers like serial killer Gary Ridgway. Democrats argue that mass incarceration doesn’t work, claiming that dangerous felons are “an asset to society.”

State Rep. David Hackney (D-Tukwila) is the primary sponsor of HB 1189. It aims to dismantle and rebuild the Clemency and Pardons Board (CPB). Then, using new rules for conditional commutations, the bill allows the newly formed CPB to give early release to dangerous felons who haven’t finished their sentences. He claims they are victims of “racism” and “poverty.”

This is just the latest reminder that Democrats fight for criminals, but not the rest of us.

Light-on-crime and sentences, too

Under the Sentencing Reform Act, felons must serve a specific sentence imposed by a judge, regardless of their purported rehabilitative efforts. Under Washington’s “three strikes law,” persistent offenders earn life sentences. The criminal justice system uses these laws to help disincentivize future miscreants from engaging in the same behavior.

But HB 1189 expands the CPB from five to 10 members, all appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Instead of serving for four years, they’d serve up to 10 — ensuring an activist CPB isn’t easily changed if Republicans gain any political control. The bill also effectively forces the Governor to tokenize members, ensuring racial, gender, and sexual identity diversity.

Moreover, it must include a felon who previously served time (or worked with the formerly incarcerated) and a faith-based representative interested in “community reentry” of felons, a not-so-subtle way to tilt decisions in favor of early release. If anyone isn’t on board with the light-on-crime approach, Hackney’s bill hopes to indoctrinate them into changing their view. The bill says they “must attend training including the principles of racial equity, racism and mass incarceration, or restorative justice on at least an annual basis.”

The CPB is being built to release criminals. It helps explain why Democrats rejected State Rep. Paul Harris’ (R-Vancouver) amendment to add a law enforcement official to the CPB and require some kind of education, training, or expertise in criminal justice or mental health services for members. But Hackney and Democrats aren’t looking for experts in their field; they’re looking for like-minded activists.

Ignoring the will of the people

The “three strikes law” would also be rewritten, casting aside the voter-approved initiative for a new, left-wing, permissive view of criminal behavior.

Inmates serving life sentences for aggravated murder in the first degree can be released after 20 or 25 years. For other criminals, there is no minimum requirement for the amount of time a criminal spends time in jail before commutation eligibility. Republican efforts to remove these felons — and those guilty of a “serious violent offense” — from consideration of early release failed after Democrats rejected an amendment by State Rep. Sam Lowe (R-Monroe).

“As a former federal prosecutor, I understand that mass incarceration did not make our community safer,” Hackney declared before decrying there’s no mechanism for murderers, gang members, and other dangerous criminals to show they’re “assets” to the community.

He doesn’t acknowledge that Democrat light-on-crime policies have directly resulted in our current crime wave. But he says some of these inmates “have earned the right to come back into society.” But they haven’t. When they complete the sentence handed down to them by a judge and jury, then they have the right to return to society.

“From the individuals that I’ve seen, there are a number of them, and I think if this committee saw them too, it would recognize we’re not talking about whether or not they’re a danger to society, we’re talking about what an asset they are,” Hackney said.

Hackney argued a safeguard against commuting a dangerous felon too early is the “political consequences” for a governor who ultimately signs off on a sentence commutation. State Rep. Roger Goodman (R-Kirkland) seemed to concur, offering a not-so-timely reference, citing an English king “during the Jacobite days” who was killed for a pardon. But Hackney is a perfect example of why that’s a particularly weak safeguard.

Media failing the people

The current elected lawmakers believe jail is ineffective and have fought hard to keep violent offenders out of confinement. They don’t differentiate between criminals, often citing contrived equity concerns as justification for their policies. This new process can be easily abused.

Hackney pushed a bill to give lighter sentences to drive-by shooters, citing equity. It generated harsh criticisms from the public — thanks to my appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight — but local media was mostly silent. Indeed, Hackney is still in office and still pursuing dangerous bills. Other Democrats in the state Legislature have used verifiably false data to keep a vehicular pursuit ban in place. The media isn’t offering any meaningful criticism.

Too many local reporters, editors, and producers generally support the left-wing causes pursued by the Democrats they cover in the Legislature. They help determine “political consequences” with media coverage. But they seldom criticize Democrat lawmakers and it’s not just about political agreement.

In a state controlled by one party, media members require access to the lawmakers in power, which is a disincentive to criticize too harshly. Jay Inslee’s team is known for shutting out media members they do not like; the Democrat communications team in Olympia actively ignores requests from specific outlets, too.

Who should we count on to offer sustained political pressure to ensure bad decisions aren’t made by members of a party that think criminals are actual victims? The media isn’t doing much now, why would anyone think that would change?

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Bill by WA Democrats releases scores of murderers from jail early