In May 2021, the Department of Corrections (DOC) shared a draft proposal for the closure of units within prison facilities. Several factors have contributed to the proposal including:
The expansion of community-based reentry programs and the State v. Blake court decision.
Corrections has seen a 54 percent decrease in prison admissions from March 2020 to June 2021 compared to the same time frames in 2019 and 2020.
Of the 17,000 total prison beds statewide, approximately 4,000 are empty as of July 20, 2021, and that number is expected to grow.
All budgets, including the 2021-2023 biennial budget, passed by the Legislature, and signed by Governor Inslee, require the department to reduce prison spending by $80 million over the next two years.
With a significant increase in the number of vacant beds, the state must address this unfunded capacity issue now.
Due to a range of complexity among facilities, a phased approach is being used:
First Step – a consolidation of units within facilities,
Phase 1 – low-impact closures, and
Phase 2 – high-impact closures.
Each phase addresses a different level and approach to consolidations and closures and will involve meetings with key groups and stakeholders. The department will reach out to stakeholders to hear comments as DOC progress through each phase.
Phase Two conversations with impacted stakeholders will start in early August with the Monroe Correctional Complex, which has the largest staff and incarcerated population currently under consideration. DOC will be having discussions with staff and labor partners, incarcerated individuals, families, advocacy groups, volunteers, and elected leaders connected to all impacted facilities.
In the West End under Phase 1 Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC) – Unit: C and Olympic Corrections Center (OCC) – Unit: Clearwater will be closed.
Phase one closures are defined as shutting down a unit and reducing the associated staffing. DOC will be utilizing reassignments and redeployments temporarily wherever possible to minimize staff impacts and will be engaging in collective bargaining obligations with labor partners. Incarcerated individuals will not be transferred to other facilities due solely to unit closures but may be transferred as a result of normal prison operations such as housing classification policies and procedures, or their request if approved.
There will be no local impact under Phase 2.
What do consolidations and eventual closures mean for staff?
One of the department’s key priorities is mitigating impacts to staff. Any decisions on unit closures will work to limit impacts to permanent employees. Hiring freezes in the Prisons Division are already in place, which will mean fewer staff will be impacted. The department intends to manage any reduction in staff over time through a phased-in approach; not filling existing vacancies, using natural attrition, and creating opportunities for new roles for staff within the department.