Engaging the Public

The last two months have seen so much progress in the Community Reinvestment Plan. This progress will be highlighted in the Interim Legislative Report (published and shared here by the end of the calendar year), but I would like to highlight one aspect of the great work  our contractor, the Harriet Tubman Foundation for Safe Passage (HTFFSP) is doing: their public engagement and collaboration.

The HTFFSP model of gathering community input for the Community Reinvestment Plan is multi-layered, but centered and focused on engaging folks with lived experience in Washington state. HTFFSP defines people with lived experience as those people who have experienced or witnessed first-hand the impacts of the inequitable design and enforcement of state and federal criminal laws and penalties for drug possession and manufacturing. For early focus groups and interviews, this definition was narrowed to those who have experienced the most direct harm of the policy; individuals who have been incarcerated or have at least one close contact who has been incarcerated for drug possession charges.

During focus groups and interviews the project team conducted stakeholder interviews and discussions to learn more about state agency priorities around the war on drugs. The team has conducted interviews across program management and director leadership within housing, violence prevention, and more in Commerce and other state agencies. HTFFSP used the initial feedback to inform which quantitative data can serve to further examine these impacts. During the next phase of the project, community members will vet the data.

In its first two months, the project team has:

  • Convened a steering team which meets weekly and includes representation from the Office of Equity and Commerce’s policy team.
  • Engaged multiple organizations and hundreds of community members and stakeholders.
  • Collected and analyzed data from state and federal sources.
  • Engaged communities through surveys, text messages, email and phone calls, and amassed a list of over 800 direct contacts.
  • Launched a project website which garnered over 1,200 visits in its first 15 days.
  • Conducted the first of five planned focus groups.
  • Conducted interviews with Native and Indigenous scholars, public defenders, Black or BIPOC small business owners, and over 200 Black or BIPOC mental and behavioral health service providers, reentry service providers, and violence prevention specialists.

Please check out the project website for regular updates and ways to engage, like the weekly office hours Fridays at noon, or how to join in on collaborative efforts coming soon to you. The next stage of engagement will be data collection from larger groups of people, guided by an upcoming calendar of events that will be shared statewide. I look forward to sharing these events with you and you sharing them out in your networks! – Commerce Program Manager, Lillian Ferraz

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