SSB 6639

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

As Passed House - Amended:

March 3, 2010

Title: An act relating to creating alternatives to total confinement for nonviolent offenders with minor children.

Brief Description: Creating alternatives to total confinement for nonviolent offenders with minor children.

Sponsors: Senate Committee on Human Services & Corrections (originally sponsored by Senators Brown, Stevens, Gordon and Shin; by request of Department of Corrections).

Brief History:

Committee Activity:

Human Services: 2/18/10, 2/22/10 [DPA];

Ways & Means: 2/27/10 [DPA(WAYS w/o HS)].

Floor Activity:

Passed House: 3/3/10, 77-21.

Brief Summary of Substitute Bill

(As Amended by House)

  • Creates a new sentencing alternative for offenders with minor children; it is called the Parenting Sentencing Alternative.

  • Creates the Parenting Program to allow offenders who are already serving a sentence within the Department of Corrections and who would otherwise be eligible for the Parenting Sentencing Alternative to be released on home detention for up to the final 12 months of their sentence.

  • Makes technical changes to the earned release provision of the Sentencing Reform Act.


Majority Report: Do pass as amended. Signed by 8 members: Representatives Dickerson, Chair; Orwall, Vice Chair; Dammeier, Ranking Minority Member; Darneille, Green, Herrera, O'Brien and Walsh.

Staff: Linda Merelle (786-7092).


Majority Report: Do pass as amended by Committee on Ways & Means and without amendment by Committee on Human Services. Signed by 18 members: Representatives Linville, Chair; Ericks, Vice Chair; Sullivan, Vice Chair; Alexander, Ranking Minority Member; Bailey, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Dammeier, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Cody, Conway, Darneille, Haigh, Hunt, Hunter, Kagi, Kenney, Kessler, Pettigrew, Priest and Seaquist.

Minority Report: Do not pass. Signed by 4 members: Representatives Chandler, Hinkle, Ross and Schmick.

Staff: Owen Rowe (786-7391).


Adult offenders who committed felonies on or after July 1, 1984, are subject to the provisions of the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) of 1981, as amended. The statutes contain guidelines and procedures used by courts to impose sentences that apply equally to offenders in all parts of the state based upon the defendant's previous criminal record. The SRA provides guidance for judicial discretion by providing standard sentencing ranges for courts to follow for a given offense and a given criminal history of an offender.

For some types of offenses and offenders, sentencing courts have discretion to order alternative sentences. These are statutory alternatives to the standard sentence range for certain offenders who meet the eligibility criteria. These alternative sentences include the First-time Offender Waiver (FTOW), the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA), and the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA).

First-time Offender Waiver.

The FTOW is available for certain nonviolent offenders who have not been previously convicted of a felony offense in this state, in federal court, or in another state, and who have never participated in a program of deferred prosecution for any felony.

Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative.

If a defendant is charged with an offense under the Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act or any other felony and the court finds that the offender has a chemical dependency that contributed to the crime, the offender may be eligible for and move the court for a DOSA.

Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative.

The SSOSA is a special sentencing option which allows community treatment of sex offenders and a reduced period of confinement if they are eligible.

Summary of Amended Bill:

Parenting Sentencing Alternative.

Under this act, the Parenting Sentencing Alternative is created. An offender is eligible for this sentencing alternative if:

The court may order a risk assessment report and/or a chemical dependency screening report prior to sentencing. If the court is considering this alternative, the court must request that the DOC contact the Children's Administration of the Department of Social and Health Services or a tribal child welfare agency to determine if the agency has any open or prior cases of substantiated referrals of abuse and/or neglect involving the offender. A report from the Children's Administration must be provided within seven business days. A report from a tribal child welfare agency must be provided in a timely manner.

The court must also consider the offender's criminal history when determining if the sentencing alternative is appropriate.

If the court determines that the offender is eligible for the Parenting Sentencing Alternative, the court will waive imposition of the sentence within the standard sentence range and impose a sentence of 12 months of community custody. The court may impose conditions of community custody, including affirmative conditions that the court deems appropriate. The conditions may include parenting classes, chemical dependency treatment, mental health treatment, vocational training, offender change programs, and life skills classes.

Violations of conditions of community custody are reported to the court. The DOC must provide quarterly progress reports to the court and must seek to coordinate services with the Children's Administration when an offender has an open child welfare case. The court may review the offender's compliance with the conditions of community custody under the Parenting Sentencing Alternative and may modify the conditions or impose sanctions. If the offender violates the conditions or requirements of the sentence or the offender is failing to make satisfactory progress in treatment, the court may order the offender to serve a term of total confinement within the standard range of the offender's current offense at any time during the period of community custody.

Parenting Program.

If an offender who is already serving a sentence within the DOC and is otherwise eligible for the Parenting Sentencing Alternative, he or she may be eligible for partial confinement in the form of home detention for a period not to exceed the final 12 months of confinement. Except for custody of the minor child, the same criteria would apply as if the offender were being sentenced to this alternative. In this circumstance, the offender must have a proven, established, ongoing, and substantial relationship with his or her minor child that existed prior to the commission of the current offense or the offender must be the legal guardian of a child that was under the age of 18 years at the time of the current offense.

The DOC must determine that such placement would be in the best interests of the child. If the offender has an open child welfare case with the Children's Administration, the DOC must collaborate and communicate with the identified social worker in the provision of services. All offenders placed on home detention as a part of the Parenting Program must provide an approved residence and living arrangement. The DOC has the authority to return any offender serving partial confinement in the Parenting Program to total confinement if the offender is not complying with Parenting Program requirements.

The DOC and its officers and agents are not liable for the acts of offenders participating in the Parenting Program unless they acted with willful and wanton disregard.

The amended bill contains a technical amendment regarding the earned release provisions under the Sentencing Reform Act. The amendment will allow the different amendments to that provision, made during the 2009 session, to be successfully merged.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date of Amended Bill: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony (Human Services):

(In support) By offering an alternative sentence, it has tremendous impact on children and may stop the cycle of crime. The majority of children in group homes had parents in the prison system. Many of them ended up in prison.

(Opposed) None.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony (Ways & Means):

(In support) Fifty-six percent of females in the custody of the Department of Corrections have children under the age of 18. One issue that is not considered in this fiscal note is the cost of the children who enter the offender system themselves. Statistics show that children of incarcerated parents often engage in the same cycle of behavior as the parent. This bill would offer some early prevention and intervention to help keep these kids out of the system. The bill would help re-establish relations between the parents of a child and their families. The fiscal note is missing the reduction in impacts on child welfare. Re-establishment of a parenting role and the reintegration into society are factors, particularly for women, for whether or not a person who has been incarcerated will reoffend. This type of early intervention works well in other states.

(Opposed) None.

Persons Testifying (Human Services): Anna Aylward, Department of Corrections; Winona Stevens; Adel Fortner; LaMont Green; and Charles Quinn.

Persons Testifying (Ways & Means): Scott Blonien, Department of Corrections; and Lonnie Johns-Brown, National Organization of Women.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying (Human Services): None.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying (Ways & Means): None.