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We want data and accountability for jail sales tax revenue

Below is the letter our Justice System Committee sent to Executive Sidhu and County Council members.

April 8, 2024

Dear Executive Sidhu and County Council Members,

The Riveters Collective Justice System Committee has followed the efforts of Whatcom County’s Justice Project with great interest. Voters have now entrusted the Executive and Council with hard-earned resources to build an effective, efficient, and compassionate community safety system to mitigate decades of under-emphasis and neglect. 

This month, the County begins collecting public funds in support of that proposed system. Almost simultaneously, the County and local jurisdictions will receive separate opioid settlement funds. We believe it is imperative for the County to prioritize transparency for Whatcom residents for any and all funds collected and distributed related to these two funding streams, beginning now. Relevant outcome measures, clearly and separately defined and tracked, are fundamental to accountability. 

We recently learned the County has received a grant in support of project management and facilitation to analyze and communicate data related to the Justice Project. The grant term began in the first quarter of 2024 but grant-supported activities have not yet begun. We are dismayed that the County appears to be moving less-than-efficiently to staff, fund, and hire a team dedicated to collecting, evaluating, and publishing data. Spending decisions should be made based on data, not anecdotes or hypotheses. Without appropriate and sufficient staffing, and attention to developing robust state-of-the-art metrics, we will get more of the same. The public deserves so much better.

We respectfully charge you to prioritize hiring internal ‘data’ staff with core criminal justice analysis understanding and credentials. We believe it is critical that data be rigorously collected from all components of the justice system, as described in the commissioned 2017 Vera report and SAC Needs Assessment; this must include collecting data from all law enforcement agencies within Whatcom County. The data should follow an individual through the entire system – from initial contact to exit – and have clear outcome measures focusing on Implementation Plan goals. Data sets collected from each justice system component should be shared externally through a public-facing, interactive website to build public trust. 

We hope to see immediate action by the County because we believe there is no time to waste. Our commitment to you is to remain actively engaged in this effort.


Riveters Collective Justice System Committee

cc: Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force