No Mega Jail in Ferndale campaign is rejecting a proposal already struck down by voters twice
Photo: Italic serif font in gold reads, “Whatcom County” with words in all caps in white underneath that say, “Vote no on Proposition 4” on a black background and a gold silhouette of Whatcom County on a map of Washington with surrounding counties in gray.
People across Washington—from Whatcom to Spokane—are clear: The vitality of their communities is not contingent on more jails.
Inatai Foundation recently made contributions to Community First Whatcom to support campaigns that put people first, including $75,000 to the No Mega Jail in Ferndale campaign to defeat Whatcom County Proposition 4. If approved, this measure will create a 0.2 percent sales tax to fund the construction of a new, 440-cell mega-jail at a cost of $137 million—or, roughly $311,000 a bed. In the process, it would widen racial and wealth inequities by taking a disproportionate toll on people of color, especially Black and Native people.
Proposition 4 goes against the expressed wishes of voters, seeking to expand the county’s jail system in direct opposition to public will. The Whatcom County community have already voted down proposals for a new county jail, not once, but twice—in 2015 when voters rejected a plan for a 521-cell jail at a cost of $125 million, and again in 2017, when they rejected a proposed 244-cell jail. The community knows it is time for solutions that actually works, reflect public will, and taps into proven research on effective, equitable solutions.
We can address issues such as community violence, public health, and poverty through preventative and rehabilitative means before, or in lieu of, incarceration. But under this tax proposal, all funds will go to the construction of the mega jail for the next six years, at the expense of much-needed programs. For example, mental and behavioral health services are critical to limiting unnecessary contact with law enforcement and the courts, create alternatives to incarceration, and reduce recidivism and racial and economic disparities within the jail and criminal legal system. This measure prioritizes building a mega-jail at the expense of programs proven to actually reduce crime.
These reasons are why we support Community First Whatcom and their No Mega Jail in Ferndale campaign, as they work to defeat Whatcom County Proposition 4. Saying no to the measure would not only stop millions of dollars from being pumped into Whatcom’s carceral system, but would also create an opportunity to pursue solutions created by and for the community. At Inatai, we believe that the needs of those most impacted must be at the forefront of policy decisions and development—and in the case of a mega-jail in Whatcom County, the people have already spoken, twice.
This November, join Community First Whatcom in voting no on Proposition 4.