Worse yet, nothing, including slashing sentences by up to 50 percent for a few hundred prisoners, has stemmed the flow and there is no end in sight.
As prison officials scrambled to find beds for this influx of new prisoners, they have resorted to shipping prisoners to rental beds in other states. In May 2003, 100 prisoners were sent to Nevada prisons, followed by 140 more later that summer. Still the problem persisted.
The 2004 Washington Legislature then attempted to put a $320 million, 2,400 beds, prison expansion Band-Aid over the emblem. Only, that prison building boom won't be complete until 2008, doing nothing to ease current overcrowding.
Despite the abysmal track record of private prisonsextensively reported in PLNprison officials opted to send 290 prisoners to private prisons operated by Corrections Corporation of America, (CCA), the nation's largest private jailer, in 2004.
In true CCA form, problems soon followed. On July 24, 2004, dozens of Washington and Wyoming prisoners gathered on the yard at the CCA-run prison in Onley Springs, Colorado. They had a list of grievances and demanded to see the warden. Within 30 minutes, the prison was in chaos and it took hundreds of guards a full day to quell the largest prison riot in Colorado history.
Over a dozen prisoners were injured in damage was estimated at $1 million. Numerous Washington prisoners were then transferred to a CCA prison in Minnesota and eight Washington prisoners face criminal charges stemming from the riot.
A post-riot investigation by the Colorado Department of Corrections faulted CCA for understaffing and poorly trained staff, and for building a prison with materials, such as porcelain things, which could be accused as weapons." This is nothing new for CCA-run prisons.
I just don't have a lot of trust for the privately run prisons," says Jeannie Danielle, Washington Representative and Vice Chairwoman of the House Corrections Committee.
Apparently prison officials do not share Representative Danielle's concerns, as they plan to send up to 300 more prisoners to CCA prisons across the nation during the summer of 2005; bringing the total of Washington prisoners confined in out-of-state rental beds to 830.
We don't have beds in state to house those offenders, and we have to put them in beds," said Anne Fiala, a senior Washington prison official. The only option we have is to put them in beds in other states.
If that means confining prisoners thousands of miles away from family and other community support, in unsafe private prisons with a long history of abuses and poor living conditions, and so be it.
Source: Seattle Times.
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