Dear friends and neighbors,

Our state’s long journey to abolish the death penalty has been difficult and emotional. For decades, advocates and a growing number of lawmakers fought to end the practice because it was expensive, morally problematic, and inconsistently applied.

13 years have passed since the death penalty was last administered in Washington, and in 2014 Governor Inslee announced a moratorium on the practice. In 2018, advocates celebrated a major victory when the state Supreme Court struck down the death penalty law as unconstitutional because it was “imposed in an arbitrary and racially-biased manner.” But even after all that progress and despite our best efforts, legislation to repeal the law formally failed to pass year after year.

Thankfully, the 2023 session was different. I was proud to sponsor Senate Bill 5087 and watch the Legislature, with bipartisan majorities in both chambers, finally vote to make Washington one of 23 states without a death penalty in law. In my view, repeal of capital punishment represents a profound statement about our values in this state.

The death penalty wasn’t the only focus of SB 5087. The bill removed language from our legal code struck down by the courts, including forced sterilization of sex offenders, the prohibition on employment of communists by the state government, and the two-thirds supermajority requirement for legislative approval of tax increases. Removing language from the statute books that no longer has any legal effect will provide more clarity and transparency in our state law.

Several other measures passed this year will strengthen our criminal justice system and help refocus our state’s correctional system toward just and humane rehabilitation.

  • SB 5134 increases the gate money a person gets upon exit from prison to $300. The current $40 limit was set in 1972 and has not been adjusted for inflation since.
  • SB 5131 exempts commissary account deposits sent by families and other outside sources from required deductions by the Department of Corrections. Reducing mandatory deductions will help families support their loved ones without having to sacrifice their own economic resiliency.
  • SB 5101 clarifies and expands emergency medical placement criteria in the Department of Corrections to give greater access to emergency medical release with supervision. Once implemented, people facing terminal medical conditions who are low risk to re-offend will be able to serve the remainder of their time under supervision in a community medical setting.
  • HB 1470 sets minimum standards for private prisons regarding inspections, cleaning, sanitization, laundry, personal hygiene, food and diet, room temperature, infection control, and water and air quality. As the state’s ban on private prisons continues its way through court, this provides an important stopgap to ensure conditions in private prisons are improved in the meantime.
  • HB 1345 removes burdensome fees people experiencing incarceration must pay for extended family visits. Eliminating these fees will increase familial connection and re-entry networks, which are proven factors for successful re-entry into the community.
  • SB 5502 bolsters programming and efforts in the Department of Corrections to combat substance use disorder among incarcerated people.
  • SB 5128 provides accurate data on jury demographics and addresses the top reasons jurors are unable to serve. Having a diverse jury is crucial for ensuring fairness and access to equal justice in our legal system.
  • SB 5415 improves legal representation for people found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to state psychiatric care.
  • SB 5046 addresses inequities in the criminal justice system by enabling the Office of Public Defense to provide postconviction counsel to people who can’t afford it.

Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter. I will continue to send updates on key legislation passed during this year’s legislative session. If you missed my previous updates on gun safety, reproductive freedom, public education, housing, LGBTQ+ rights, or climate action, they are available on my website. Please reach out with any questions at

Best wishes,