Marijuana Arrests: Costs, Consequences, Racial Disparities
The Consultant Group is using a data justice approach and Community-Based Participatory Action Research for this project. Data justice is an approach that redresses ways of collecting and disseminating data that have invisibilized and harmed historically marginalized communities. For decades, if not centuries, data has been weaponized against BIPOC communities, in particular, to reinforce oppressive systems that result in divestment and often inappropriate and harmful policies.
Data justice aims to capture forms of knowledge and lived experiences that are community-centered and community-driven to counter the systemic erasure and harm perpetrated on BIPOC communities via oppressive data practices. The fundamental premises of data justice are that data should: (1) make visible community-driven needs, challenges, and strengths, (2) be representative of community; and (3) treat data in ways that promote community self-determination.
The data suggests that Commerce's investments are not fairly distributed to marginalized communities. Instead, funding is prioritized for communities and organizations with demonstrated need, organizational capacity, relationships with decision makers, and access to regional partners. This exclusion of the most affected and vulnerable communities who experience resource and relationship isolation, results in exacerbated experiences of inequality across the state. This continued marginalization results in exacerbated experiences of inequality across the state.
The Work Group's recommendations aim to address the obstacles to BIPOC homeownership by focusing on three main categories: improving inadequate lending products for BIPOC borrowers, overcoming the inaccessibility of existing assistance programs, and overcoming systemic factors that disproportionately affect BIPOC households' ability to sustain homeownership.
The work group identified eight strategic themes and developed 60 specific recommendations to achieve three main objectives: establish a foundation for a fair and equitable future, reduce poverty by optimizing current systems, and prevent poverty by building an inclusive economy. These recommendations are based on data and research, input from individuals experiencing poverty and organizations that support them, as well as innovative solutions from communities in Washington state and across the country. Together, they serve as a blueprint for a future in which all Washingtonians have their basic needs met and the resources and opportunities to thrive.
The report highlights that nationally, homicide, aggravated assault, and gun assault rates were significantly higher during 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 compared to previous years. In Washington, the number of overall shooting victims in King County in 2020 was up nearly 36% from the three-year average, with a 27% increase in the number of fatal shooting victims and a 38% increase in the number of non-fatal shooting victims. The report also shows that community gun violence disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color, with young men of color being particularly vulnerable. The report recommends community violence intervention programs to reduce violence, which have been shown to reduce violence by as much as 60% by interrupting cycles of violence and retaliation, leveraging trusted messengers and connecting individuals and families to social, health, and economic services.
Youth from marginalized communities, including BIPOC, LGBTQ2+, and those with disabilities, face higher rates of housing instability. The reasons for this vary, but the root causes can be grouped into three factors: structural, systemic, and individual/relational. In discussions with youth, interpersonal and individual factors were the most frequently cited cause of homelessness, but often multiple factors including gaps in the system and structural factors also contribute to housing instability.
The Washington State Statewide Reentry Council report highlights ongoing racial disparities in the state's criminal legal system and the negative impact it has on Black, Indigenous, People of Color individuals and communities, and recommends individualized reentry planning that includes access to safe and affordable housing, strong community supports, and essential technology.
The United Way ALICE Report for Washington State report highlights that despite economic improvements between 2007 and 2018, 33% of households still struggled to afford basic necessities. This includes 10% of households living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and 23% ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households, who earned above the FPL but not enough to afford basic household necessities. The report also shows that ALICE households exist in every county in Washington, and includes people of all genders, ages, and races/ethnicities, across all family types, but Black and American Indian had the highest percentage (above 50%) below the ALICE threshold or in poverty.
The number of cannabis possession arrests in Washington State increased significantly from 4,000 in 1986 to 11,000 in 2010, totaling 240,000 arrests. In the last 25 years, a single arrest for possession cost taxpayers between $1,000 to $2,000 and the total cost of the 240,000 arrests is estimated to be $300 million or more. Despite lower rates of cannabis usage among young African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, they were arrested at higher rates than whites and made up 25% of the people arrested for cannabis possession, even though they were only 14% of the state's population.
Executive order 22-04 requires all state agencies to take responsibility for progress on the Pro-Equity Anti-Racism (PEAR) Plan & Playbook, which outlines Washington's approach to promoting equity and social justice across state government. The goal of the PEAR Plan & Playbook is to close opportunity gaps and reduce disparities, allowing all individuals in Washington to thrive and reach their full potential.
Executive order 22-02 acknowledges the harmful effects of discrimination, racism, and oppression, and recognizes the responsibility and ability of the Washington state government to take action. The order requires executive and small cabinet agencies to use newly developed Tools for Equity in Public Spending. The Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises (OMWBE) will continue to lead the implementation of the Roadmap to Contracting Equity, developed in response to a 2019 disparity study. The order recognizes that it is only a necessary step towards creating equity in the state.
Executive order 16-05 directs the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) to develop a reentry-focused orientation program for individuals entering and exiting correctional facilities. The orientation will provide information on restoration of rights, resources for individuals in and leaving the system, and crisis services. Individuals leaving state prison and juvenile facilities will receive necessary documents, including certificates of completion and voter registration forms, to aid in their transition to the community. The DOC and JR will also pilot technology solutions to improve the safe and successful transition to the community.