OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee has commuted the sentences of more than 125 people on community supervision whose drug convictions have been deemed unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Court.
That is part of a broader push to grant as many as 1,200 commutations for people on supervision whose convictions were invalidated by the court’s ruling in February, Inslee announced Monday.
“I am committed to doing what I can to try to remedy the situation and assist the courts who are doing what they can to get through this backlog of cases,” Inslee said in a news statement.
Known as the Blake decision, the court overturned Washington’s felony drug-possession statute and rendered invalid decades of convictions.
The ruling has made thousands of people eligible to get their records cleared and get paid back for legal financial obligations they paid while incarcerated or on supervision.
But the decision — welcomed by those critical of the decades-long war on drugs — has added to a backlog in the courts, which are already facing delays after the COVID-19 pandemic ground proceedings to a halt.
This spring, Inslee issued commutations to the handful of incarcerated people serving prison terms solely due to the overturned statute.
Now, the governor’s office is allowing certain people convicted under the statute to petition directly for commutations: The petition form created for this latest round is being circulated among those on community supervision who only have felony drug-possession convictions, according to Inslee’s office.
The petitions are being distributed by the state Department of Corrections.
The petition form also directs DOC to stop collecting legal-financial obligations — the fines and fees imposed on top of a criminal sentence — according to Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk. Individuals will still have to go through the courts, however, to get back money they have already paid.
As of Monday afternoon, the governor has signed 129 commutations for this latest round, Faulk wrote in an email, and “new orders are being issued daily at this point, between 15 and 30 a day.”