April 26, 2009 in City

In close vote, lawmakers approve less offender oversight

Backers cite efficiency in cost-cutting move
Curt Woodward Associated Press
 

OLYMPIA – The state would save millions of dollars by cutting back supervision of released criminals – including murderers and rapists – under a bill that has passed the Legislature.

Lawmakers are scrambling for virtually every dollar they can find to patch a $9 billion deficit, and the trimming of community supervision could save about $48 million through mid-2011.

The measure calls for the state to supervise fewer criminals when they’re not behind bars, and cut the maximum length of supervision for those who are watched. Senators passed the bill Saturday on a 26-23 vote, sending it to Gov. Chris Gregoire for final approval.

Supporters said the changes will make supervision schemes more efficient, eliminating practices that are not shown to improve public safety. But minority Republicans, including some who supported earlier versions of the reforms, found the version approved Saturday unacceptable.

Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, read from a list of crimes for which community supervision could be cut, including murder, manslaughter, assault, kidnapping and rape.

“The No. 1 thing that we should be doing is public safety,” Carrell said.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, countered that studies show no significant effect on crime rates under the kind of supervision changes spelled out in the bill. Hargrove also pointed to support from prosecutors and sheriffs for the changes.

The bill would remove the blanket requirement for supervision of anyone sentenced to probation in superior court for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor.

The measure also would remove the requirement that the Department of Corrections oversee released felons who rank in the two lowest-risk categories for committing other crimes.

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