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Washington Prison Legislation

The Washington state legislature ended its 1997 session by passing very few laws that directly impact Washington prisoners. Laws that were signed into law were:

ISRB: House Bill 1646 extended the existence of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB, AKA the parole board) another ten years until 2008. The ISRB was initially slated to cease its existence in 1988 after Washington enacted determinate sentencing. Since then it has obtained several extensions to keep its grip on those prisoners convicted before 1984. The bill passed both houses of the legislature unanimously and amended RCW 9.95.0011 and 9.95.003.

Disclosure of HIV Status: Substitute House Bill 1605 was signed into law which allows medical personnel to inform jail and prison employees exposed to a prisoner's bodily fluids whether or not the prisoner is infected with HIV or any other fluid borne disease. The DOC and county jails were ordered to develop policies for distribution of communicable disease prevention guidelines to their staff.

35% Statute: Senate Bill 5283 was passed. Its stated purpose was to "clarify" RCW 72.09.480, the state statute which mandates the seizure of 35% of all funds sent to prisoners from sources outside the prison system. The new portion of the law defines "cost of incarceration" as "the cost of providing an inmate with shelter, food, clothing, transportation, supervision, and other services and supplies as may be necessary for the maintenance and support of the inmate while in the custody of the Department, based on the average inmate costs established by the Department and the Office of Financial management."

The new law states: "The amount deducted from an inmate's funds under subsection (2) of this section shall not exceed the Department's total cost of incarceration for the inmate incurred during the inmate's minimum or actual term of confinement, whichever is longer." The constitutionality of RCW 72.09.480 is being challenged in the class action suit of Wright v. Riveland. The legislative change does not affect the litigation or the claims raised therein.

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