I am writing to highlight the efforts of Shawn Vestal, along with the entire Superior Court bench — especially Judge Moreno — for taking a brave and honest stance on criminal justice reform and to shed light on the clear barrier that Prosecuting Attorney Larry Haskell is to that reform.
Kudos to Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno, for her clearly written argument for adopting racial equity as a guiding principle for criminal justice reform. To the entire Spokane County Superior Court bench, thank you for forthrightly acknowledging the institutional racism that courts perpetuate against people of color (POC). Strong kudos to Shawn Vestal for identifying the biggest barrier to criminal justice reform: Larry Haskell, who has undermined virtually every reform effort to address the pervasive inequities perpetuated by the criminal justice system.
I served as the coordinator of the county’s felony drug and mental health courts for 10 years. When Larry assumed office, referrals to therapeutic courts dropped significantly, and, more insidiously, virtually no POCs were referred. When inquiries were made about this, his office refused to send needed information about their referrals while claiming “we don’t turn anyone down.” Many attorneys in Larry’s office countered that claim by noting that they and their colleagues would receive reprimands for submitting referrals to our courts. Despite Larry’s politics, these attorneys remain committed to fair and equal treatment.
Spokane must replace Larry Haskell if it wants a racially equitable criminal justice system.