Spokane County residents facing the criminal justice system could soon have a series of animated videos available to help teach them about local courts and jail.
The program proposal is contingent on county commissioners approving the $12,000 project on Tuesday.
Maggie Yates, the county’s regional law and justice administrator, said the county has not yet drafted a script for the videos, but the intention is to show families, victims and people facing charges what to expect when dealing with situations such as arrest, court appearances or posting bail.
“The project for the videos really came out of a lot of people pointing out the fact that the criminal justice system is really difficult to comprehend,” she said.
When a committee of experts and stakeholders discussed the videos, many of them told Yates they had recently learned something new about how the criminal justice system works.
“When we are working within a system where even the experts and professionals are learning details and nuances,” she said, “it’s certainly reasonable that community members are also in need of information.”
The videos would be funded by a MacArthur Foundation grant meant to be used for criminal justice reform, such as reducing mass incarceration and racial disparities in the system. Spokane County has won a combined $3.8 million in MacArthur Foundation grants since 2018.
If commissioners approve the contract during their meeting, Brooklyn-based animator Stephen McNally would produce six videos that would be between 90 seconds to two minutes in length; they would be finished by summer. McNally previously has produced animated educational videos for the Vera Institute of Justice, which studies and advocates against mass incarceration.
Infographics from the videos would be posted online separately.
Yates said the committee of local stakeholders looking into criminal justice reform is considering going to the community with a survey and seeing which parts of the criminal justice system are confusing, and what is the best way to make them understandable.
Yates also plans to take the project to local law enforcement and other agencies to fact-check the videos before they are released.
County Commissioners will vote on the project at their 2 p.m. meeting on Tuesday in the Public Works building basement at 1026 W. Broadway Ave.
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