Washington's Prisons
6:47 am
Wed November 17, 2010

Teamsters file suit over prison cuts

Unionized prison employees will picket outside the Monroe prison this morning. They’re protesting budget cuts. The union has also filed a formal lawsuit.

In the suit, the Teamsters warn of what could happen if just one of the cuts is made: the elimination of a prison guard to watch over inmates working in the kitchens in medium-security prisons. 

Their case contends inmates will have more opportunity to fashion “shanks” and “shivs” from kitchen implements, contaminate food with feces and urine and make “pruno,” a homemade prison wine.

 Tracey Thompson heads Teamsters Local 117. She says the cuts will jeopardize the health and safety of her members.

“We cannot wait until our folks are seriously injured in order to take action,” Thompson said.

Washington prison officials respond that safety in prison kitchens can be maintained. They say the chefs are trained as correctional officers and the inmates who work in the kitchens tend to be less disruptive.

The prison cuts come in response to Governor Chris Gregoire’s recent order of 6-percent across-the-board reductions to keep the st ate budget in balance.