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Legislature approves Leavitt bill expanding education opportunities for incarcerated people

OLYMPIA – Today, the Legislature voted to send HB 1044 to the governor for his approval, the final step to expanding educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals in Washington state. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mari Leavitt (D-University Place), creates pathways from prison to postsecondary and apprenticeship education, a proven method to lowering recidivism rates and improving public safety, all while saving taxpayer dollars in the criminal justice system.

Statistics show that more than 95 percent of people in state prisons are released at some point and have a 27 percent unemployment rate. Unemployment rates are reflected in higher rates of recidivism. Studies have shown that reduced recidivism rates save the taxpayer a minimum $5 for every $1 spent on education for incarcerated individuals. They also show that the likelihood of formerly incarcerated individuals finding employment increases significantly if they have received postsecondary education.

“Expanding opportunities for people to earn a fair wage when completing their sentences leads to stronger, safer communities all across the state. I have seen the result of programs that help people learn a trade or a certificate that leads to good-paying jobs that can turn into careers. This is a commonsense way for us to address our need for skilled workers and reduce crime in our communities and I am so grateful to the many individuals who pushed for this bill to pass,” said Leavitt.