Perspective on Justice Project needs assessment process / Atul Deshmane, Northwest Citizen

March 21, 2023 Dena Jensen

I know there are people who have already read “Atul Explains Vote Against Jail Recommendations,” a letter to Whatcom County Council Chair Barry Buchanan that was published on Northwest Citizen about a month ago, but I think it could use some broader exposure.

From my understanding in reading the letter, the essence seems to be that it is important to remedy flaws in the recent needs assessment process for justice related services and a jail facility. It is pointed out how the discovery process of the needs assessment was insufficient and how more outreach and review – some of which has been recommended in the past – is needed before additional taxes should be put before voters to approve. It is also recommended that, concurrent with that review, Whatcom County use existing jail tax monies we have approved in the past to fuel projects and services that will help reduce the number of people being placed in jail.

Many of the services recommended by Atul Deshmane in his letter have also recommended by other members of Whatcom County’s Justice Project Stakeholder Advisory Committee. As one of three members of the SAC to vote against approving their final report, the significant difference in his recommendations in this letter is that he is prioritizing the development and improving of services and community engagement rather than the building of a jail. 

As local political organizations and individuals begin to take action related to our local government’s accelerating campaign to build a new jail, it’s valuable for us to broaden our points of view beyond the narrative most officials will likely be sticking with. 

The author of the letter, Atul Deshmane, is a former member of the Whatcom County Planning Commission and a current PUD commissioner. He serves as a member of the Whatcom County Justice Project Stakeholder Advisory Committee.