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The Coalition to Transform Safety Rejects the New Jail Proposal
Whatcom County needs a fresh perspective on public safety. We, a coalition of working class/BIPOC-led grassroots community organizations and concerned individuals, oppose Proposition 2023-04 (Public Health, Safety, and Justice Sales and Use Tax) in the November 2023 elections. We firmly believe that investing in community services and policy changes that alleviate inequality will create true community safety.
Current health and community services are in dire need of funding. The jail proposal indicates that the new taxes would be spent on the jail first before any behavioral health services for incarcerated people are potentially funded. Devoting our taxes to a new jail will deny funding to essential programs and delay critical public policy changes. Pouring more money into a new jail will not solve the underlying problems we face; it will exacerbate them. Instead, we must fund non-carceral services that contribute to health and well-being, such as no-barrier housing, expanded healthcare (including mental health access), improved public transportation, increased food security, trauma-informed crisis intervention, and an immigrant resource center. By addressing the root causes of our community’s challenges, we can foster a safer and healthier community for all.
Our community rejected the same jail proposal twice in the past decade—showing we want change and alternatives to incarceration. It’s time to listen to the people and explore new approaches that prioritize prevention and support. True community engagement requires meaningful participation from those most affected by the criminal justice system—communities of color, unhoused individuals, those with mental illness, disabilities, living in poverty, or currently incarcerated (to name a few).
We agree that conditions in the jail are inhumane, but constructing a new facility without addressing the issues faced by those currently incarcerated is not a just solution. Merely moving people to new cages will not provide a therapeutic environment or prevent recidivism. We have no reason to trust that the same deterioration that left the current jail ‘crumbling’ in thirty years will not happen with the new jail. Instead, our focus should be on creating supportive environments that promote rehabilitation and growth outside of the carceral system.
Rather than perpetuating and expanding the cycle of incarceration, we advocate for the reallocation of resources to establish voluntary, community-based treatment facilities that address mental health and substance use disorders effectively and sustainably for Whatcom County. These alternatives prioritize rehabilitation, healing, and reintegration, promoting a more compassionate and long-lasting approach to public safety.
We firmly believe that building a new jail in Whatcom County is not the answer. We are committed to voting “no” on the jail tax and urge others to vote “no” too. Together, let us advocate for a sensible and compassionate approach to public safety, ensuring a safer and more equitable future for all Whatcom County.
Pay attention to who’s supporting the “No” votes.
Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
NW Youth Services
Community to Community Development
Whatcom Civil Rights Project
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
Racial Justice Coalition
Community First Whatcom
Birchwood Food Desert Fighters
WA Poor People’s Campaign
Western Academic Workers United
Showing Up for Racial Justice Whatcom
No Whatcom Jails
WA Peoples Privacy Network
Veterans for Peace Chapter 111
Whatcom Human Rights Task Force
Whatcom Coalition for Anti-Racist Education
Families of the Incarcerated
Bellingham Unity Committee
Bellingham Tenants Union