Inslee to provide clemency relief to individuals still serving community supervision solely on invalid drug possession convictions
Individuals impacted by February’s Blake decision may now directly petition the governor’s office to have their sentences commuted
Washington state has instituted a new process to allow individuals on active community supervision for certain drug possession convictions to directly petition Gov. Jay Inslee to commute their sentences. Inslee is prepared to issue unconditional commutations for eligible petitioners to eliminate any remaining community supervision involving drug possession convictions that have been invalidated by the Washington Supreme Court, as well as any obligation to pay on related legal financial obligations.
“I am committed to doing what I can to try to remedy the situation and assist the courts who are doing what they can to get through this backlog of cases,” Inslee said. “I want to thank the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and State Office of Public Defense (OPD) for stepping up to help me provide clemency relief to eligible petitioners.”
This new path to commutations will allow expedited relief for thousands of individuals following February’s State of Washington v. Blake decision, in which the Washington State Supreme Court declared Washington’s simple drug possession statute unconstitutional.
Since the decision, state courts have issued orders to vacate a large number of causes that meet the criteria under the Blake decision. But many cases remain unresolved, and with courts backed up due to the pandemic, thousands of individuals with now-invalidated convictions have not been able to get into court to have those convictions vacated.
In April, Inslee issued unconditional commutations to 18 individuals who were still in DOC custody solely on since-invalidated convictions. Now, the Office of the Governor has partnered with DOC and OPD to facilitate this new commutation process. Recently, DOC began contacting eligible individuals on active community supervision to alert them to the new program and invite them to petition Inslee for clemency relief.
“COVID has created countless challenges in our criminal justice system. And February’s Blake decision compounded those challenges,” Inslee said. “Though the State Supreme Court has invalidated the drug possession convictions of thousands of individuals, many of these individuals have not been able to get into court to have their convictions vacated and dismissed, even six months after the Supreme Court’s decision.”
There are currently over 1,200 individuals who remain on active DOC community supervision, solely for drug possession convictions held invalid by the Washington State Supreme Court in Blake. These individuals are now eligible to petition for a commutation through this new program. The DOC has begun disseminating petitions to its community correction officers to share with eligible individuals, and DOC will pass those completed petitions to OPD, which will process the petitions and send along proposed orders for the governor’s signature. Since the first completed petitions arrived at the Office of the Governor, Inslee has already issued over 100 unconditional commutations, with additional orders being issued daily.