Gross: State Senator passes law to screen drug offenders prior to release

May 25, 2023, 6:02 PM

law screen drug offenders...

Republican State Senator Chris Gildon (R-Puyallup). (Photo courtesy of Chris Gildon's WA State Legislation page)

(Photo courtesy of Chris Gildon's WA State Legislation page)

Republican State Senator Chris Gildon (R-Puyallup) wanted to see legislative guardrails put up around those who struggle with addiction and are set to be released from the criminal justice system through the passing of Senate Bill 5502 — which was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last week.

S.B. 5502 would ensure access to treatment programs for those who are released early from the Department of Corrections.

“A few years ago, the legislature enacted the program called ‘graduated re-entry’, that allows [those being released] to do a portion of the end of their sentence in a community setting,” Gildon told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “I noticed that there are a number of people who are going to this graduated re-entry Program, who had not received any type of substance use disorder treatment.”

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The new law will do a multitude of things. First, this will require the Department of Corrections to assess any person eligible for release for substance abuse disorder. If they are found to have a disorder, then treatment would become mandatory.

This would ensure that those being released early are not being sent back into the world with a pre-disposition for drug use, which could potentially put them right back in the criminal justice system.

“Whenever they’re in prison, supposedly, ideally, they’re not using drugs. And then a lot of them are released back into the community and they start using again,” Gildon said.

Gildon stated the risk for overdose is rather high for those who have recently been released. He says there have been examples of people dying because they are experiencing a lower tolerance for the drug than in previous instances.

Ultimately, a more proactive approach would be the most beneficial for those in the Department of Corrections.

“Ideally, we could get to a place where the Department of Corrections would start that rehabilitative programming on day one, when the person is entered into custody,” Gildon said. “I think that would be ideal. But we’re not there yet.”

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It is encouraging to see a Republican lawmaker get policy passed in this state. Gildon’s law takes an important piece of the puzzle into consideration.

Even though Gildon makes the point this law won’t magically fix everything, it is an important step in potentially reducing the amount of repeat drug offenders in the state.

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Gross: State Senator passes law to screen drug offenders prior to release