Washington's Prisons

Researchers say the economic benefits of prisons often don't materialize for rural communities. That's according to a new paper by Northwest sociologists. In fact, they found communities with private prisons fare worse than they did before.

Washington State University sociologist Gregory Hook says rural areas that opt to build prisons, even courting them with tax breaks, have one main goal in mind: jobs.

“You know, you look across the way and you say 'Oh there's a prison. Fifty people have a job there. So that's 50 new jobs in my community.' … Only it's not.”

Marc Soller / Flickr

With about 16,000 inmates, the Department of Corrections says Washington prisons are at 102 percent of capacity and they need to find space by this summer to hold 160 more.

The department found space last week for 140 inmates by deciding to house two inmates each in single-inmate cells at the state Reformatory in Monroe.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

SHELTON, Wash. – The recent murder trial in Seattle of Isaiah Kalebu made headlines for the brutality of his crime – the rape and butcher knife attack of two women in their home that left one of them dead.

But the trial also attracted attention because of Kalebu’s volatile outbursts in court and suicide attempts. Now he’s headed to prison – for life.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s former prisons chief has admitted to an extramarital affair with a subordinate. And Seattle TV stations are airing video they say shows Eldon Vail leaving a motel with that staffer. Vail resigned suddenly last Friday.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington has begun to deport some prison inmates before their sentences are up. The new program is expected to save $2 million a year. But the deportations have immigrant rights advocates concerned.

Washington DOC

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington's prisons chief has resigned suddenly citing personal reasons. The announcement late Friday came the same week an inmate was fatally shot during a prison escape attempt.

Governor Chris Gregoire's staff says she did not ask Eldon Vail to tender his resignation.

The Washington Department of Corrections says one inmate was killed Wednesday during an escape attempt at the Clallam Bay Corrections Facility.

Spokesman Chad Lewis says that just after 10 a.m., a corrections officer was taken hostage by a prisoner with a pair of scissors. At the same time, another prisoner drove a forklift through the doors of the work area and into the prison fence.

AP

The population of Washington state prison inmates has become whiter, older and more violent in the past decade. That's according to an Associated Press review of Department of Corrections records.

AP

Byron Scherf, a convicted rapist already serving a life sentence has confessed to the killing of Monroe Reformatory guard Jayme Biendl.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The state Department of Corrections is changing some of its procedures in response to the killing of a female guard at the Monroe prison last weekend.

Jayme Biendl was found strangled in the prison's chapel last Saturday night. An inmate has been arrested in the killing.

Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said Friday that prisons will immediately:

  • begin counting staff members whenever an offender is missing;
  • officers will begin regular check-ins on guards who serve at duty posts alone;
  • conduct drills on the use of silent alarms on the hand-held radios that guards carry.

AP

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