11/16/2010: "Wa Prisons In Lockdown, Huh?"
OLYMPIA - All eight major prisons in Washington will be under a one-day lockdown Tuesday as part of the Department of Corrections’ effort to help balance the state budget. Offenders will remain in their cells all day except during meals.
There will be a scheduled one-day lockdown each month between now and the end of the budget cycle, which ends June 30, 2011. The lockdowns will allow the Department of Corrections to expand the number of staff members who are impacted by temporary layoffs.
“This is just one of many unprecedented steps we’re taking to reduce spending and help the state overcome a historic budget crisis,” Prisons Director Bernie Warner said. “We will be adequately staffed to operate the prisons safely. Offenders just won’t have access to programs, education or work.”
The Department of Corrections and other agencies that receive most of their operational funds from the state’s general fund are required to reduce across-the-board spending by 6 percent between now and the end of the budget cycle. For the Department of Corrections, that means reducing spending by nearly $53 million while still incarcerating more than 16,000 offenders in prisons and supervising more than 19,000 offenders in communities.
“The impact these budget cuts have had on our staff has been significant, even before this current round,” Warner said. “But we believe actions like these modified lockdowns will allow us to reduce spending without compromising safety for both the staff and offenders.”
During the lockdowns offenders will not be able to attend education classes, participate in treatment programs or go to work. While that saves money in the short term, prison administrators say access to programs and work is important to prison safety.
“Offenders who work and participate in programs are less likely to cause trouble,” Warner said. “That’s why we work hard to provide effective programs and training for offenders to participate in. Having one-day lockdowns each month will still allow offenders plenty of opportunities to work and participate in programs.”
The state’s five minimum-security work camps will operate as usual.