Bellingham, Washington, July 9, 2020 – Eric Richey, Whatcom County Prosecutor, is organizing a series of separate small group meetings with constituency groups most affected by racial bias and discrimination in criminal justice. The initial constituency groups include African Americans, Native Americans, Farmworkers, the homeless, Latinx and Chicanx, undocumented persons, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the LGBTQIA2+ community. The listening sessions will inform action and policy changes for our local criminal justice systems and recommendations for the Governor’s Task Force.
“I am thankful to our Whatcom County Prosecutor Eric J Richey for having meaningful discussions on what prosecutorial reform looks like from his office”, said Nickolaus Dee Lewis, of the Lummi Indian Business Council. “I truly am thankful and appreciate these conversations that are being led with the right intentions. Systemic change isn't easy and our people have had to demand for far too long. It shouldn't be so hard to ask for things like racial equality from the justice system but sadly in today's environment, it is. There is no doubt that the justice system needs reform and we can only achieve that by working together on solutions. I'm thankful to be just a small part of the conversations with some amazing people who all just want to do what's right for the people of our country. I hope to hear what recommendations or thoughts people have around what prosecutorial reform looks like, especially to address concerns about how the justice system impacts people of color at the highest rates.”
“I attended the Black Lives Matter rally in Bellingham and listened carefully to what people had to say”, said Eric Richey. “I want to hear more. While my office considered hosting a much larger forum, my goal is to hear from people who have been directly impacted by unfair treatment within the criminal justice system. I want to make sure that people feel safe talking with me about their ideas for change and that takes time, and often in smaller settings. I expect to hold one meeting per week to work together in developing a plan for change. I want to take your voices with me to the Governor’s committee on policing and racial justice.”
A committee of community members are working to advise Prosecutor Richey’s plan for the listening sessions to increase the opportunity for greater diversity and inclusion. These members include Ana Cecilia Lopez, Nickolas Lewis of Lummi Nation, Dr. Damani Johnson, Carrie Blackwood, Heather Flaherty, Lisa McShane, and Terrance Morris.
We anticipate hosting 8 to 12 meetings through September followed by a larger community forum to share what the plan is moving forward.