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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


King County awards $2.8 million in grants from marijuana fund to five BIPOC-led community organizations to address disproportionate drug enforcement impacts

Summary

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced $2.8 million in awards for five community-based organizations to assist and intervene on behalf of individuals and communities experiencing disproportionate arrests and convictions for marijuana and other drug-related actions.

Story

King County has selected five community-based organizations to receive funding under a new $2.8 million project that addresses years of disproportionate arrest and incarceration related to the federal government’s “war on drugs”. Helped by recent State policy changes, King County is moving forward to support individuals who were incarcerated for activities that are no longer criminal offenses.

The grants, originally proposed by Executive Constantine in his biennial budget in 2020, take proceeds from the King County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Enforcement Revenue and direct them to groups that provide community-based supports and legal aid.

This community-based project complements King County’s work to vacate and resentence cases affected by the Washington State Supreme Court State v. Blake ruling that found the state’s felony drug possession statute unconstitutional. The Prosecuting Attorney, Department of Public Defense, Superior Court, Department of Judicial Administration, and District Court are partnering on efforts to provide individuals with Blake convictions the legal and financial relief they are entitled to under the ruling, including record vacation, resentencing, and refunds of fines and fees.

“For decades, communities of color have unfairly borne the impacts of the federal government’s ‘war on drugs’ and this is part of how we begin to unwind the tangled roots of systemic racism in our communities,” said Executive Constantine. “These grants represent another clear, tangible step forward by King County to empower communities and rectify the wrongs of disproportionate drug convictions.”

“The war on drugs has ravaged so many communities in our country, trapping generations of families in a cycle of poverty and trauma,” said King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay. “Today’s investment is a step in the right direction on the long journey toward healing and uplifting the specific King County communities who have been most impacted.”

A Request for Proposal (RFP) process sought applications from organizations that would join with King County to mitigate the impacts of drug law enforcement and criminalization on communities throughout King County, and particularly those communities disproportionately targeted by the war on drugs. This funding will equip organizations to connect individuals burdened by drug-related criminal records to the available means of relief including record vacation, record sealing, and direct financial support where appropriate.

Awardees Selected

The contracts will be coordinated through the King County Department of Community and Human Services, Adult Services Division. The agencies chosen through the competitive process are all organizations working within communities most impacted historically by the “war on drugs” and experiencing disproportionate arrests and convictions for marijuana and other drug-related actions. The agencies selected, the services they plan to provide, and the populations they will serve are as follows:

  • African Community Housing and Development - $359,253
    • Holistic, culturally and linguistically relevant legal support and case management to vacate and seal records, help families knowledgeably navigate the justice system, and reenter the workforce throughout the region.
  • Chief Seattle Club - $1,048,040
    • Native-led criminal legal system navigation, direct financial relief, and connection to holistic in-house supports.
  • Freedom Project - $977,925
    • Black-led regional pre-release approach to record vacation and direct financial relief via incarcerated paralegals and state level advocacy.
  • Somali Community Services - $197,500
    • Direct financial relief, criminal legal system navigation, and outreach/education to Greater Seattle Somali community.
  • Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle - $217,282
    • Culturally responsive criminal legal system navigation and education through in-house workshops and legal aid via connection to pro bono attorneys.

County staff will begin now to negotiate and sign contracts with each of the organizations selected, with services expected to ramp up over the next several months.


Quotes

For decades, communities of color have unfairly borne the impacts of the federal government’s ‘war on drugs’ and this is part of how we begin to unwind the tangled roots of systemic racism in our communities. These grants represent another clear, tangible step forward by King County to empower communities and rectify the wrongs of disproportionate drug convictions.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

The war on drugs has ravaged so many communities in our country, trapping generations of families in a cycle of poverty and trauma. Today’s investment is a step in the right direction on the long journey toward healing and uplifting the specific King County communities who have been most impacted.

Girmay Zahilay, King County Councilmember

Chief Seattle Club is honored to partner with King County to reduce legal financial obligations for our relatives returning from incarceration. American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionately policed and prosecuted which leads to higher recidivism. By reducing their debts they will have the opportunity to have a truly fresh start where they can thrive.

Derrick Belgarde, Executive Director, Chief Seattle Club

We are honored and eager to utilize these resources to work to give members of our community a means to obtain early release and to work to break down the systemic barriers that prevent them from securing housing, employment and educational opportunities.

Kiki Elfendahl, Development Director, Freedom Project

For more information, contact:

Chase Gallagher, Executive Office, 206-263-8537


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

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