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Criminal Justice

The Bill of Rights protects us against suspicionless searches and seizures. It guarantees due process to individuals who are accused of crimes and humane treatment to those who are incarcerated. The ACLU works to ensure that our criminal justice system indeed is just.
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The death penalty is arbitrary, unfair, and racially biased.  The ACLU of Washington argued before the Washington Supreme Court to end it.

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News Release, Published: 
Friday, July 15, 2011
Pierce County Jail inmates filed a class action lawsuit on September 20, 2010 challenging jail officials’ illegal treatment of Muslim inmates. As the suit alleges, jail officials routinely treat Muslim prisoners worse than others when it comes to accommodating religious dietary needs, allowing for group prayer, and providing access to religious resources.  The jail also operates a special unit known as the “God Pod,” where Christian inmates enjoy housing and programming privileges that are denied to prisoners of other faiths. 
Published: 
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
It is a fundamental principle of a democratic society that public employees should be held accountable for their actions. In May, a Seattle arbitrator undermined that principle by ruling that the City of Seattle’s contract with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild requires the city to withhold the names of police officers who were disciplined for misconduct. Thankfully, City Attorney Pete Holmes has decided to challenge this decision and is fighting to keep this information public.
Published: 
Friday, June 10, 2011
In a case (State v. Monday) that drew front-page coverage in today’s Seattle Times, the Washington Supreme Court has issued a strong ruling that racist comments by a prosecutor undermine the fundamental right to a fair trial.
Published: 
Friday, April 8, 2011
Let’s be clear:Senate Bill 5073, the medical marijuana legislation moving through the state legislature, isn’t perfect.  Different stakeholders with different motivations have made a lot of changes to it along the way. It’s no one’s ideal bill.
Published: 
Friday, April 1, 2011
Last December, the ACLU of Washington and 34 community organizations sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation of the Seattle Police Department after a string of troubling incidents involving unnecessary or excessive use of force by officers.  On March 31 we received an answer: DOJ is coming to Seattle.  The move came after a preliminary inquiry in Seattle determined that a full-scale investigation is warranted.
Published: 
Friday, March 11, 2011
Several years ago, comedian Chris Rock created a “public service announcement” called “How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police.”  The message includes obvious directions like “obey the law” and as well as tongue-in-cheek suggestions like “if you have to give a friend a ride, get a white friend” and satire about police reactions. This piece is funny because it is based on a simple truth known throughout communities of color:  If you are a black or brown man, you don’t have to work very hard to attract the attention of the police.
Published: 
Monday, March 7, 2011
  The criminal justice system in Washington is heavily biased against people of color. Statistics from a new report may surprise you. Suppose a black driver and white driver are pulled over by police:  Do you know which one is most likely to be searched?      Do you know which one is most likely to actually have contraband in the car?  Get involved and get the facts about racial bias.   
Published: 
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Eva’s son died from gang violence.  Every day she lives with an aching desire to hold him again.  But despite her grief, she opens her home to young people in her community, some of whom are at risk to be involved in gangs. A Yakima Valley resident, she wants to keep them off the streets and safe from the violence.   Eva is angry that her son is no longer with her, yet she wants more opportunities to help young people rather than sending them behind bars.
Published: 
Monday, February 28, 2011
My intense passion for righting wrongs came before any desire to work within legislation or politics. I became involved with social justice issues during my days as a Catholic schoolgirl, and although the dogma eventually disappeared, the need to help others remained.  In choosing an externship, the ACLU was my first choice, and a natural fit.  As I’ve learned more about its work, I’ve found that my gut reaction to the issues has been spot on. 
Published: 
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I can understand why many people in Seattle are angry that Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk will not be charged with murder. If you or I intentionally shot and killed someone who was not an immediate threat to us, we would be charged with murder or at the very least manslaughter. But the law treats police officers differently. In 1986, Washington’s legislature passed a law that allows police officers to escape criminal charges for killing a person so long as the officer had a good faith belief that his actions were justified and he acted “without malice.” This law protects the officer even if his “good faith belief” was wrong. So, it is not surprising that King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg believed that he would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Birk murdered John T. Williams.

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