Joy Gilfilen

Joy Gilfilen has been serving our community for decades both professionally and in non-profit roles.

Her most recent Whatcom County service is as a volunteer President of the Restorative Community Coalition (RCC).

The Coalition is a 501C3 non-profit organization working with people re-entering the community after an arrest or who have been justice system involved. She has served them and their families as they recover from the social, emotional, economic and employment impacts of an arrest on their lives, their family, their jobs, and their long-term future.

Joy has worked with hundreds of volunteers and professionals to develop models for re-entry support, court navigation, restorative justice, mentorship and life skills training to serve families who are navigating the justice system. She has been an invited speaker to statewide conferences on re-entry and about justice system reform.

Joy has hosted community conferences and professional panel discussions to help people diagram the complex problems, so we can more easily see bottlenecks and pressure points in the system that can be adjusted to get better results. (Scroll down to read more.)


Management and Policy History

Joy’s prior policy and political experience: In 2015 Joy was a candidate for County Executive. Joy served as executive staff at the WA State Legislature for three different legislators over four years in the 80’s. She worked as the acting personnel manager for the WA State Dept of Fish and Game during a transition in the 70’s. In 2016 Joy was a County, then a State Delegate to the WA Democratic Convention.

Educational Experience: Attended two years higher education which included introductory training in the Washington State University Air Force ROTC , then she transferred to Western Washington University where she worked as the first female student patrol officer for the WWU Campus Police while attending college. Even as Joy has always been involved in community action, Joy entered the private business sector and has taken dozens of professional managment and business courses.

National Business Experience: Her 30 years in executive level management includes 20 years as a free enterprise corporate trainer/business consultant building programs for national companies.
Joy has coached corporate executives and trained independent people who were managing million dollar sales businesses in different areas of the country. 

Community Focussed Professional Experience: In the 80’s Joy chaired the Fairhaven 1990 Task Force to create a community plan to revitalize the Fairhaven historical district that led to it becoming an urban village. Joy was licensed as a real estate broker in the 80’s, then hired to do troubleshooting to rebuild systems and manage a commercial fisheries marina in California. Returning to Whatcom County she built two conference management systems to streamline productivity at SPIE – the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers; and managed the Whatcom County Vistors and Convention Bureau as it expanded into four locations with over 40 volunteer staff.

Socially, Joy coached local sports teams for her sons, worked in PTA and 4-H, been involved in many community issues using social media. Joy has been a free-lance business writer, served as VP-Programs of Whatcom Women in Business, been in Toastmaters and served in other professional organizations.


More: Justice System Research

Joy has completed deep levels of research into how to repair the law and justice system. She has been actively searching for quality methods of jail and justice system reform.

Joy’s interest was sparked in 2010, when she started noticing business problems that were emerging for the community after 9-11 and technology changed how communities work. Increases in laws, taxes and changes in politics were affecting the opportunities for young people, the shrinking middle class and affecting small businesses and the working class. The American dream was soggy: Why? What could be done about it?

Joy became President of what was then called the Whatcom County ReEntry Coalition, researching the Whatcom County law and justice system. As she discovered the social, economic, and civic origins of the problems, she began testifying about the symptoms to find solutions.

Her goal was to start the process of rectifying civic challenges she saw as the County’s movement to build ever-bigger jails was inversely tied to workforce losses, inequity, prejudice and imbalances. This led to uncovering unexpected ways that our community’s criminal justice systems were under-performing and causing unintended harmful consequences.

The Board members evolved their mission from just working on reentry to working on recidivism, early intervention, and restorative justice practices. This led to changing the name of the non-profit to become the Restorative Community Coalition. This expanded vision opened the door to understanding how to bring in prevention alternatives and family support tools to improve results for the whole community.

In 2015, Joy compiled research and co-authored the Stop Punishing Taxpayers, Start Rebuilding Community” Taxpayers Report. It’s purpose was to illuminate contradictions and assist business leaders, politicians and the public in understanding how we can get better results for taxpayers dollars. In short, she discovered that we taxpayers can get a higher return on investment of time, money and resources when we invest in people first; before building bigger, expensive, high liability facilities.

Joy began producing educational information videos such as the Reclaim Lives Video and the No Bigger Jail video to explain how the public can both improve public safety, strengthen business community ties, and make different budget investments to streamline and produce better results for the whole community over time.

In 2018 Joy did the research on what happens at the point of arrest and as people go through the justice system, and her preliminary findings have been summarized in the “Blindspots:  Unexpected Findings from Jail Trauma Research” charts.

These charts show surprising results that truly helps 911 responders and law enforcement officers, as well the people involved in a situation, and all our policy makers and community leaders to comprehend complexity. It helps us all understand why jail and justice system reform is necessary in the 21st century.

Joy has been a favorite at statewide conferences, testified at and served as a proxie at the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force meetings (which has now expanded to include the responsibilities of the Law and Justice Council. Joy has interfaced with State Legislators, City and County Councils, Tribal members, Jail Task Forces, non-profit leaders and then chaired the  Local Justice Reform Now in 2017.