I want to thank you all for your continued support of Yoga Behind Bars. We see you and we appreciate you and we thank you! As we begin to see the light after an extremely difficult year, this last year has taught me about my capacity for resiliency, about the importance of Yoga Behind Bars’ work, and about the world we live in.
While YBB is a direct service organization, we cannot sit on the sidelines of social change and criminal legal reform. We owe it to the people and communities we serve. So, as we begin to grow and evolve as an organization, we see opportunities to partner with organizations that are already great at doing the work of advocacy, ending the pipeline to prison, and wraparound care support when people return to the community.
I want to share with you something dear to me. Many of you know that I suffered with addiction and that eventually led to my incarceration. I did not know where to turn and was afraid to seek help or discuss what I internalized as weakness. I was always the one helping others and did not know how to get help much less ask for it.
Last year I began supporting Treatment Frist WA, because I believe that substance abuse is a health issue. That adding stress and trauma and criminalizing someone that is using something to cope the best way they know how to, is not a solution but adds to the issues the individual is dealing with and further impacts their families and the people that love them. The War on drugs is not working. We know that Treatment and Recovery works.
House Bill 1499 was introduced but did not make it out of appropriations. This Bill would have decriminalized possession of drugs in amounts considered personal use and funded additional treatment and recovery services. We were clearly disappointed and began the work to bring it to the people in a ballot initiative.
But on Feb 25th the WA State Supreme court ruled on a case State v Blake and found that Washington’s Drug possessions laws are unconstitutional. What impact that has is still being considered. People are being released, people can no longer be charged with the state possession law, sentences need to be recalculated, and prosecutors have to drop pending charges.
Several bills are being introduced to recriminalize individuals suffering substance use disorder. A lot of people are satisfied with the status quo in Olympia but there are few champions of change. I see this as an opportunity to look at what we have been doing to help people instead of continuing to layer trauma on people, who quite frankly need an opportunity to seek help.
Julian Saucier, Executive Director of Yoga Behind Bars.