King County awards $ 2.8 million in grants to tackle the disproportionate impact of drug policies

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King Dow County Constantine

King County Director Dow Constantine on Tuesday announced $ 2.8 million in awards for five community organizations to help and intervene on behalf of individuals and communities facing disproportionate arrests and related convictions. to the federal government’s “war on drugs”. Aided by recent changes in state policy, King County is moving forward to support people incarcerated for activities that are no longer criminal offenses.

The grants, initially offered by Constantine in its biennial budget in 2020, take the proceeds of marijuana revenues from the King County Sheriff’s Office and direct them to groups that provide community support and legal aid.

Officials say this community project complements King County’s work to evacuate and crack down on cases affected by the Washington State Supreme Court’s ruling against Blake, which declared the state’s possession law unconstitutional. drug. The prosecutor, the Department of Public Defense, the Superior Court, the Department of Judicial Administration and the District Court join forces to provide those convicted by Blake with the legal and financial assistance to which they are entitled under the decision, including registration vacations, sentencing and reimbursement of fines and costs.

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

King County Council Member Girmay Zahilay agrees and says the allocation of funds is a key step to help resolve the issue.

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

A Request for Proposal (RFP) process sought applications from organizations that would join King County in mitigating the impacts of drug law enforcement and criminalization on King County communities, and in especially communities disproportionately targeted by the war on drugs. This funding will allow organizations to connect people with drug-related criminal records to available relief resources, including registration vacancies, case sealing and direct financial support, where appropriate.

The contracts will be coordinated by the King County Community and Social Services Department, Adult Services Division. The agencies chosen as part of the competitive process are all organizations working in communities most historically affected by the “war on drugs” and subject to disproportionate arrests and convictions for marijuana and other drug related actions. drug. 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 to provide holistic, culturally and linguistically relevant legal support and case management to clear and seal cases, help families navigate the justice system informed and reintegrate the labor market throughout the region.

• Chief Seattle Club – $ 1,048,040 to support navigating the native-led criminal justice system, direct financial aid, and connecting to holistic internal supports.

• Project Freedom – $ 977,925 to support a regional black-led pre-release approach to record vacation and direct financial relief through incarcerated paralegals and state-level advocacy.

• Somali Community Services – $ 197,500 to provide direct financial assistance, navigation through the criminal justice system and outreach / education to the Somali community in Greater Seattle. • Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle – $ 217,282 to help provide culturally relevant criminal justice navigation and education through in-house workshops and legal aid through connecting to volunteer lawyers.

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