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WA DOC Wants to Open New Prison, Close Old Ones

The Washington DOC received a budget increase of 30 percent last year. As part of the two percent budget cutback affecting all state agencies the DOC has offered plans which would require the closure of two small prisons and delay the opening of the large Airway Heights prison near Spokane. The November 20, 1993, Seattle Times article did not cite the prisons to be closed, but staff at the Washington State Reformatory have stated that the camp at Indian Ridge is one of the prisons being considered for closure. The plan does envision closing the honor farm at the Reformatory in Monroe with the 110 prisoners being transferred to other prisons and 35 staff positions being eliminated. The plan would also eliminate 40 work release slots.

At the same time, the DOC has notified cities and counties throughout Washington that it is seeking an appropriate location to build yet another prison. This is to be 1,936 bed minimum to maximum prison facility. The project is budgeted at $150 million in construction costs, will employ 800 staff and will cost an estimated $40 million a year to run in payroll, supplies and maintenance. So far only officials in Okanogan County have expressed an interest in the facility.

It is readily apparent that any talk about DOC "budget cuts" is a sham. The reality is the DOC gets a 28% budget increase instead of a 30% increase. Generally prison construction costs are paid for either by issuing bonds, whose interest is financed by the state or paid for from the state's capital construction budget. Once the factors of financing, interest, etc., are factored in, the actual cost is far higher.

In other Washington DOC news, Division of Prisons Director James Spalding left Washington to become Director of the Idaho DOC effective in early December, 1993. Effective January 1, 1994, Tom Rolfs is the new Director of Prisons for the Washington DOC.

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