October 2, 2009

Washington joins other western states in massive prison cuts

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Looks like Washington state may be joining the ranks of states cutting loose prisoners to save money in the budget battles. After releasing more than 8,000 offenders from probation in the past two months, the state Department of Corrections may close at least one prison to save even more money, the Seattle Times reports.

Faced with the need to slash millions of dollars from their respective budgets, the Department of Corrections and the state Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration are awaiting a report from the governor’s Office of Financial Management that is expected to recommend shuttering one adult and one juvenile prison, a move that would result in massive job cuts and the shuttling of hundreds of inmates to other facilities.

“It’s like a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ situation,” said DOC Secretary Eldon Vail. “Something has to be shut down.”

The state now joins California, which has made severe cuts to its prison system, and Colorado, which plans to do the same. Washington faces a $130 million, or about 6.7  percent cut from the previous two-year budgeting period. California cut $1.2 billion from its prison system in July. Colorado plans to release 15 percent of its prison population early to slash millions of dollars from the state budget.

— Rita Hibbard

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