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Inside Olympia — Criminal Justice Reform

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March 25, 2021

Criminal justice legislation has been a major focus for majority Democrats during the 2021 session. Host Austin Jenkin sits down with Democratic State Sen. Jeannie Darneille and Republican Sen. Chris Gildon discuss areas where the parties have found bipartisan agreement, and where philosophical differences have led to contentious debates in both House and Senate.

Among the proposals moving this year in the Legislature are bills to restore felons’ voting rights when released from prison but before their sentences are complete; expand the state’s Clemency and Pardons Board and the kinds of sentence commutations it can recommend; prohibit driver license suspensions for unpaid traffic tickets; resentence “three-strikes” offenders with 2nd-degree robbery in their history; expand eligibility for the state’s “Graduated Reentry Program”; raise the age ranges under which juveniles can be charged with serious crimes; allow juveniles to serve parts of their sentences under community supervision rather than behind bars; and establish “baby courts” to help troubled families with kids 3 years old and younger.

Plus — from prison to law school to attorney to the first former felon elected to the State Legislature and perhaps the nation: we talk with first-term State Rep. Tarra Simmons. She talks about her journey, and tells young people to set goals, pursue them, and not give up hope. Her bill to restore felon voting rights immediately upon release from incarceration has won approval from both House and Senate, and needs only the governor’s signature to become law.

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