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Building from the recommendations of the Justice Project Needs Assessment, the Implementation Plan lists five (5) key strategies and fifteen (15) projects, including:
Read the full Implementation Plan.
The Justice Project began with a Council-appointed Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) tasked with guiding the development of a Needs Assessment report. The SAC had 38 voting members including individuals with lived experience in the criminal legal system, mental health and substance use disorder providers, housing specialists, criminal justice advocates, as well as key city and county leaders.
The next step, which was to create an Implementation Plan, was led by the Executive’s Office with guidance from the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force (IPRTF) acting as the Law and Justice Council (LJC) for Whatcom County. The IPRTF has been working since 2015 to provide resources to address the underlying causes of incarceration in order to lead people out of the criminal legal system and into supportive services, reducing the chances of reincarceration. The Justice Project – including the Needs Assessment and the subsequent Implementation Plan – has also been guided by input gathered through community focus groups, workshops, surveys, and listening sessions.
On June 12, 2023, the IPRTF endorsed the Draft Implementation Plan as ultimately approved by the County Executive and County Council. The Draft Implementation Plan then moved under the direction of the Executive and County Council. Councilmembers discussed the draft Implementation Plan during a reoccurring series of Committee of the Whole Justice Project Workshops. Workshop materials and information are available here. During a special meeting on June 26, 2023, County Council approved the Implementation Plan as amended.
The Implementation Plan identifies key projects and actions that can be taken in the next 1-3 years. Some projects are already underway, but others will take longer to accomplish and may not be completed within the 1-3 year timeframe.
In the past, there was an assessment of the jail facility but not all the complex components that determine who is in the jail, whether enough is being done to keep people out of jail, and how large the jail should be. This time, an in-depth needs assessment was completed under the guidance of a diverse stakeholder group with a large amount of public engagement and feedback, including feedback from priority audiences such as people with lived experience in the criminal legal system. This effort focuses on all the elements that help prevent people from going to jail and keep them from reincarceration. The Implementation Plan was developed in coordination with the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force, which is made up of service providers, community members, and other key stakeholders who are working to refocus Whatcom County’s approach to public safety around equity, public health, and community safety.
The Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force (IPRTF) will establish the Justice Project Oversight and Planning Committee (JPOP) to ensure transparency and facilitate communication with the public.
You can also stay updated on IPRTF news by:
Public comment on the Justice Project and Implementation Plan has concluded. Thank you to all who shared input and contributed to the development of the plan!
Past comments on the Justice Project are posted and available for viewing.
To stay informed on issues relating to the criminal legal system and behavioral health, follow the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force (IPRTF):
The various services, facilities, and oversight projects outlined in the Implementation Plan will need to be matched to applicable funding types. Some of the funding is in progress or likely while other sources still need to be identified in order to fill gaps.
How It Can Be Spent
Proposed new sales tax
1/3 must go to Criminal Justice, 2/3 for anything, including the proposed Implementation Plan
Behavioral Health and Housing facility capital costs (crisis relief and stabilization centers)
County Behavioral Health Fund
Any behavioral health purpose, including Therapeutic Courts, school prevention, community behavioral health services, psychiatric services in the jail, GRACE program.
Healthcare, including behavioral health services, outside the jail (reimbursement rates are limited)
North Sound Behavioral Health ASO
State and Federal funding for regional behavioral health facilities and services, crisis services, involuntary commitment, co-responder program
Local housing funds
Affordable Housing, rental assistance, shelter and related services
General Fund and existing sales tax
Supports operating costs for existing jail and Work Center