The meeting was called as a forum to support the continued funding of the Naselle Youth Camp. It grew into much, much more.
Generations of Naselle residents packed the school auditorium. The state sent a delegation from DSHS to listen to concerns, after having made the closure recommendation included in the Governor's budget. For the most part they listened well, only pushing back once. Their report urging closure had been guided by numbers on a spreadsheet compiled in Olympia. They encountered a blast of reality from our citizens. I was so proud to be a part of this community.
The meeting was an open forum. Anyone who wanted to speak had that opportunity. Even though the camp's closure would be life-altering for many local residents, every speaker was respectful in their presentation and comments. These were hardworking people employed directly by the camp, community members, even past residents of Naselle Youth Camp. Each gave clear, cogent, real reasons why this move would be a colossal mistake.
Much has been published about the good accomplished over the years through the camp. I'm not going to chronicle it all here. It will not be an emotional argument that sways the legislature in this current session to fund the continuing operation of our Naselle Youth Camp against the Governor's recommended budget. It will be a prioritization of the cost of success. The camp has been a very effective agent in preparing youth to re-enter society with tangible skills to help them gain legitimate success on their own. Last session the state committed millions of dollars with SB 5070 to fight recidivision, the tendency to relapse into criminal behavior, at the adult level. This was to be accomplished through programs in custody followed by local assistance when released. The goal was to provide marketable skills, deal with abuse problems while in custody, and best prepare inmates mandated to be released back to their county of last offense to achieve a lifestyle change.
I supported the concept of in-custody drug treatment and skill building. I did not believe, and still don't, that forcing a released inmate to stay in the county of last offense irregardless of where their families, support systems or best employment opportunities exist make any sense.
The state, in the proposed budget cuts contained in this year's Governor's budget, seems to have done a 180 degree in theory. In order to balance a budget I understand that you must make painful choices. The safety of the public should be inviolate over any budget theory. If you look at the arguments presented just one year ago regarding recidivision, the state makes the same case as the people of Pacific County made in our meeting to keep the camp open.
I applaud the courageous citizens who spoke up at our meeting, including Commissioner Jon Kaino. The legislature should look elsewhere; balance the budget with something that we can do without. We are willing to tighten our belts. We are not willing to live with a proposal that was made for all the wrong reasons, that threatens our safety in our homes, takes away the best last chance for juvenile offenders, and moves away from preventing crime instead of simply punishing bad behavior.
Patrol, prosecution, the courts, defense counsel, corrections, parole and probation are all essential parts of our criminal justice system. We're all on life support now as far as funding goes. Any reduction may further the cracks already spirally along the foundation that our society rests on. Governor, legislators, listen to the people who work the front lines of the criminal justice system and live in our communities. This is the absolute last place to seek to balance your budget. The cost in real lives is just too high.