Incarceration Prevention & Reduction Task Force / Law and Justice Council

Apply now! Justice Project Oversight and Planning Committee Vacancy Announcement

Submit your application by March 12, 2024 at 10 a.m. to join the Justice Project Oversight and Planning Committee. This new committee is responsible for monitoring progress on Implementation Plan goals, ensuring transparency and public engagement throughout the implementation process, and recommending periodic updates to the plan.  View current vacancies and learn how to apply. 

About the Task Force

Whatcom County is transforming our approach to public safety, from a system focused on incarceration to one investing in equity, public health, and community safety.

Between 1970 and 2014, the number of people in jail in Whatcom County grew almost nine-fold—from 45 to 391 on any given day—while the overall county population only grew two-and-a-half times. In many cases people incarcerated were facing underlying challenges that led to incarceration, including behavioral health and substance use disorder.

The Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force has worked since 2015 to increase resources to address underlying causes of incarceration in order to prevent incarceration outright—and lead people out of the criminal legal system and into supportive services, reducing the chances of re-incarceration.

The Task Force is responsible for reviewing Whatcom County’s criminal legal and behavioral health programs and making specific recommendations on evidence-based programs and approaches to safely and effectively serve people first—reducing racial disparities in the system and the incarceration of individuals struggling with mental illness and substance use disorder.

The work of the Task Force and its partners across the North Sound region has helped to evolve our thinking and the decisions we make about incarceration and community safety, resulting in significant systemic changes, including: 

    Anne Deacon Center for Hope. The Anne Deacon Center for Hope is a crisis stabilization center serving Whatcom County and the North Sound Region. The Center provides behavioral health and substance use disorder services, particularly for those who are frequently jailed or wind up in the emergency room.  

    ART Program. The Bellingham Alternative Response Team sends a behavioral health specialist and a public health nurse to respond to specific non-violent behavioral health 911 calls.

    GRACE Program. The Ground Level Response and Coordinated Engagement program is a community-based effort to find solutions for individuals who are high utilizers of emergency and criminal justice systems. The aim is to offer intensive, coordinated services to these "familiar faces" whose needs span beyond any single agency. 

    LEAD Program. The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (also known as Let Everyone Advance with Dignity) enhances safety, health, and equity by building a community-based alternative to arrest and incarceration for people whose unlawful behavior stems from unmanaged substance use, mental health challenges, or extreme poverty. 

    Subsidized in-home detention and reducing incarceration of pretrial defendants to help address and remove economic barriers which historically, disproportionately impact people of color.

    Justice Project Implementation Plan. The Justice Project Implementation Plan serves as a roadmap that identifies the systems, services, and facilities needed to best serve those in the criminal legal system and those who need behavioral health services in Whatcom County. The Justice Project Implementation Plan was developed by the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, which includes members of the IPRTF, and was adopted by the County Council in 2023.  

Links

Task Force Authority

Reports and Information

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