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Washington DOC Seizure from Prisoner Savings Fund Policy Upheld

The Washington Court of Appeals rejected a prisoner's challenge to
Department of Corrections (DOC) Policy 200.000, requiring that a prisoner's
debt to DOC be seized from the prisoner's savings account upon release.

DOC is required to place 10 percent of all money earned or received by a
prisoner in a Personal Inmate Savings Account (PISA), which "is essentially
a 'compelled savings account,' that, together with any accrued interest,"
is returned to prisoners upon release. RCW 72.09.111(3).

Washington prisoner Kelly D. Smith was advised by DOC that pursuant to
policy 200.000, DOC would deduct any money Smith owed from PISA funds upon
his release. Smith filed a personal restraint petition (PRP) challenging
the policy, arguing that it conflicted "with the legislature's purpose for
requiring PISAs." Subsequently, Smith received the full amount of his PISA
upon release.

DOC moved to dismiss the PRP, claiming mootness and arguing that policy
200.000 was consistent with RCW 72.09.450(2), which grants DOC the power to
recoup prisoner debt.

The court found that the case presented important questions and addressed
the merits although the case was technically moot. The court found that
"Smith's petition calls into question two competing state interests: "the
'interest in reducing recidivism and in fostering an inmate's return to the
community' and the 'interest in containing corrections costs and recouping
debt owed.'" The court concluded that Policy 200.000 was valid because it
was "reasonably consistent with RCW 72.09.450(2)."

See: Personal Restraint Petition of Kelly Duane Smith, 130 Wash.App. 897,
125 P.3d 233 (Wash.App. Div. 2, 2005), withdrawing and superseding opinion
at 121 P.3d 1223 (2005).

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