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Inmates anxious over plan to close prison units across Washington state

Since March of 2020, the Department of Corrections has seen a 54% decrease in prison admissions. There are currently around 4,000 empty prison beds.

MONROE, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) is looking to cut $80 million out of its budget over the next two years.

Since March of 2020, the DOC has seen a 54% decrease in prison admissions. There are currently roughly 4,000 empty prison beds in all of Washington’s prisons. The DOC said this is due to intervention, diversion, treatment and re-entry programs.

The DOC announced some units will be closed and consolidated at several prisons across the state to cut down on spending, including Clallam Bay Corrections Center, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women, Monroe Correctional Complex, Washington State Penitentiary and more.

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The closures will be done in two phases: Phase One closures are “low impact,” meaning little change for staff and inmates. Phase Two closures are considered “high impact,” and some inmates and staff would potentially be transferred to other facilities in the state.

The Monroe Correctional Complex is included in both of the phases.

Arthur Longworth, who is serving a life sentence for murder at the Monroe Correctional Complex, spoke exclusively with KING 5. He said the announcement has incarcerated individuals on edge and unsure of their futures.

“You know, my initial reaction to that was anxiety over what that might mean,” said Longworth. “The anxiety comes from people realizing that a lot of us are going to be moved away from our home base and our families and friends. Incarcerated people come from the poorest, most economically challenged parts of society. So, not only is moving away from family and friends a big deal, it makes it super hard on families.”

The DOC gave the following statement to KING 5 about inmates potentially moving to other facilities:

“Our goal in Phase Two is to minimize transfers of individuals whenever possible, which is why Phase Two will take more time to conduct stakeholder conversations, to look for solutions to mitigate any impacts on incarcerated individuals and their families, as well as the staff who work in our facilities. No prison facilities are proposed for closure.”