New bill to reduce incarceration interest rates

By Marianne Johnson

Washington state has the second highest interest rate on legal financial obligations in the nation at 12 percent. When individuals are incarcerated, they are charged with a fine that starts collecting interest the day they are incarcerated. While people are in jail or prison, they collect a huge amount of debt that is difficult to pay off because of their lack of employment. Once released, ex-offenders face barriers to re-entering society, such as employment discrimination. If individuals can’t get jobs, they are likely to recidivate, which impacts the safety of the community. If they are not able to pay their LFOs, they are sent back to jail and the amount owed increases. Also, people who cannot find employment are likely rely on social services that are funded by taxpayers. Therefore, this high interest rate affects communities and individuals alike.

Currently, House Bill 1390 and Senate Bill 5713 are being considered in the Washington State Legislature. These bills will reduce the interest rates on non-restitution LFOs and make it easier for ex-offenders to become contributing members of society. Please write to your legislators and encourage them to support these bills.