Stricter drug laws could come to Auburn

City officials want a 30-day mandatory minimum for certain offenders.

Auburn could enhance penalties for repeat offenders caught using or possessing drugs in “anti-drug emphasis areas” of the city.

At the Sept. 26 city council meeting, Deputy City Attorney Harry Boesche and Police Chief Mark Caillier presented proposed Ordinance 6886 to increase criminal penalties for drug users in certain parts of the city.

In 2018, the council adopted the “stay out of drug area” (SODA) ordinance, which divided the city into anti-drug emphasis zones and allowed the courts to prohibit people who were convicted with a drug crime from entering those areas, Boesche said.

Currently, the anti-drug emphasis areas includes all Auburn parks, downtown core, the Outlet Collection, Southend neighborhood and recreational areas like the Interurban Trail.

The proposed ordinance would increase the penalties for certain crimes and expand the anti-drug emphasis zones. Boesche said this ordinance would allow the city to crack down on drug use in the city and work around enforcement limitations created by the state Legislature.

First and foremost, the ordinance would create a 30-day mandatory minimum sentence in the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) jail for specific violations. Repeat offenders who violate the SODA ordinance three or more times, people who are caught within 1,000 feet of a place children are likely to be, and violations that involve violence would all be subject to the 30-day mandatory minimum, Boesche said.

Boesche said the 30-day sentence is to ensure people have access to medical and mental health treatment that isn’t available to people who are only in jail for a few days.

According to the SCORE inmate manual, inmates have access to “necessary healthcare.” However, inmates have to pay out of pocket for any treatment they receive and will go into debt if they don’t have the cash. Inmates who want counseling have to submit a “mental health kite” to a correctional officer, according to the manual. The manual does not guarantee that an inmate who submits a mental health kite will actually receive any counseling.

Drug and alcohol counseling is available, but there are “specific eligibility criteria” that are not listed in the manual. Inmates who want drug or alcohol counseling are also supposed to submit a mental health kite to a correctional officer.

The Auburn City Councilmembers who spoke after Boesche and Caillier finished presenting were largely in support of the proposed ordinance. Councilmember Larry Brown said he appreciated the fact that the 30-day sentence would allow incarcerated people to get some services.

Councilmember Yolanda Trout-Manuel thanked Boesche and Caillier for bringing the presentation to the council so people will know the council is working on addressing drug use in the city.

Due to the severity of the punishment Councilmember Chris Stearns asked whether they had looked at the ordinance through a lens of equity. Boesche responded that he didn’t know what that meant.

“We’re trying to make decisions as a city that do not disproportionately impact people of color, people who are disabled, people with military status, etc you know what I’m talking about,” Stearns said. “ So I’m wondering, has equity, the impact on people of color been considered?”

“I don’t know about any specific impacts, no,” Boesche replied.

Councilmembers also emphasized the importance of notifying the public about the new rules and anti-drug emphasis zones if the ordinance is approved.