Sunday, November 1, 2015

Law and Justice - A local Perspective

The law and justice system in the United States is getting some much needed attention. Yes, the position of President of the United States plays a role as does Federal laws and funding schemes. How U.S. senators and congress representatives think of the issue makes a difference as well. Law and justice is a big part of governance.

Black Lives Matter, racial equity, police in New York or Ferguson or wherever the latest viral news stories are cause for conversation, but much of what is important is local. How is your local law and justice system working? Is your town a Ferguson? Local law and justice is a hard complicated system. The system can be dangerous, funding is always a challenge, the system has long lasting impacts on communities and peoples lives both good and bad, labor issues add to the challenge, and when the system breaks down the ability of any community to function becomes greatly limited.

Washington State has its share of problems with law and justice. Those problems crop up at the State and local level.

Seattle Police are and have been under Federal oversight. Turning the Seattle Police institution around is no easy task and our largest city continues to struggle.

Benton County is now facing a lawsuit associated with policies and approaches taken by the District Court judges with affirmation by the County Commissioners ( and ACLU sues Benton County and for a bit of background on Fuentes - wesa.operating-modern-day-debtors-prison). It is a very good example of how a local law and justice system can get out of balance. The ACLU's efforts are focused on the fact that impoverished offenders are being thrown in jail for failure to pay fines that they can not pay. The NPR story noted that 1 in 4 people in jail in Benton County were there for failure to pay fines.

Benton County may be further down the path of this approach to law and justice, but the same approach is common throughout Washington State. It is just one of those complex local governance issues that does not receive the level of attention needed until either a lawsuit or the community just falling apart.

1 comment:

Rick Gauger said...

You are so right, sir!