The following press release is from the Washington State Senate Republican Causus
Four members of the British House of Commons’ Select Committee on Justice and the United Kingdom’s deputy consul general learned more about Washington’s offender reentry program today during a visit to the McNeil Island Corrections Center.
Sens. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, and Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, who were instrumental in developing the 2007 legislation that created the offender reentry program (Senate Bill 6157), addressed the visitors at a May 20 briefing.
“I think they were very impressed with the degree of bipartisanship that resulted in this policy and the level of collaboration between state and local law enforcement and justice agencies in carrying it out,” Carrell said. “The offender population in the United Kingdom is growing. They’re looking for innovative approaches that might keep them from having to build as many prisons.”
“We had a fascinating day here and are impressed by the enthusiasm for helping prisoners to reenter society without committing further crimes,” said Member of Parliament Alan Beith, the committee chairman. McNeil is the only correctional facility the group is visiting during its four days in the U.S.
The five-hour visit was arranged after Mary Gilbert, the UK’s San Francisco-based deputy consul general, expressed an interest in SB 6157 during a recent meeting with Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail. Today’s agenda included discussions on family, fatherhood and volunteer programs, as well as education programs and chemical dependency treatment.
“People outside the United States think America’s prison policies are all hard line. We heard Washington state had innovative ideas for prison reform, and it was terrific to see them,” said Beith. He was accompanied by MPs David Heath, Alun Michael and Virendra Sharma, and two members of the justice committee staff.
“As the only state to implement this kind of reform, Washington is leading the way. Very clearly the UK is considering some of the changes we’ve already begun making,” Carrell said.