Criminal Justice Reform

When I decided to run for the state Senate in 2018, my decision was in part a reaction to the unjust murder of Tommy Le just hours before his graduation. The theft of Tommy’s bubbly and compassionate personality from our community was not a random isolated incident, but a confluence of the many injustices that mark nearly every inexcusable use of police violence: a dishonest representation of the facts that led to Tommy’s death by law enforcement; a refusal by county leadership to take responsibility for their officers’ dereliction of duty; and a complete disregard for the suffering our community endured as Tommy’s family fought for years to hold the county accountable.

I got into politics to do the work needed to make change—and as I got into the work, it became clear to me that police shootings are a symptom of over-investing in violent means to address a whole host of human service failures.

The issue of criminal justice reform is the outcropping of rampant inequality, underinvestment in communities, not having adequate resources for everything from schools and public transportation to access to nutritious food. Half of the King County budget goes to jails and courts, and we’re using that to criminalize poverty, Blackness, mental health crises, and addiction.

The truth is: a bigger, nearly $250 million youth jail should have never been built and 2025 is too long to wait to shut it down. We’re going to use the county’s $12B budget to invest in communities.

We’re going to do it because the people most impacted by these policies have been demanding it for decades—and we’re going to stop pretending there isn’t a body of scholarship and jurisprudence to support this vision. Here’s how we’ll make that happen:

1. Work to prevent crime in the first place by investing in guaranteeing people’s basic needs are met by funding essential services and scaling up the work of existing trusted organizations operating in communities who have been excluded from public investment for decades.

2. Divert youth from our criminal system at the outset by building on the program created by the first bill I wrote in Olympia — allowing our juvenile courts to send young people to youth facilities in our communities instead of incarcerating them.

3. Begin to repair trust in law enforcement among communities of color by rectifying our system of accountability to be much more transparent, and involve them in the selection process for our new King County Sheriff from the very beginning. We will ensure our police officers answer to the people they swear to serve and protect.