OLYMPIA — Dozens of third-strike prisoners serving life without parole after second-degree robbery convictions are entitled to new sentencing hearings under a bill Gov. Jay Inslee signed Monday.
Second-degree robbery used to be considered one of Washington’s most serious offenses, a conviction of which led to one of three “strikes” that lead to persistent offenders being sentenced to life without parole.
The crime typically doesn’t involve a weapon or injury, and lawmakers in 2019 removed it as a most serious offense as they reconsidered the tough-on-crime policies of the past. At the time, however, lawmakers declined to allow people already serving life without parole after a second-degree robbery conviction to be resentenced.
The racial reckoning over the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people helped spur this session’s legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille, a Tacoma Democrat who has been pushing similar legislation for at least 15 years.
Department of Corrections data analyzed by The Seattle Times show that offenders sentenced under the three-strike law are disproportionately Black. In signing the bill, Inslee noted that it would helped undo such racial disparities.
In an email Monday, the department said as many as 114 defendants might be eligible for resentencing. Nearly half of them are Black.
With support from majority Democrats, the measure passed the Senate 28-21 and the House 52-46.