The state Office of Financial Management today announced its recommendations for reducing the number of beds in Department of Corrections facilities statewide. One of the two options being recommended to the governor would downsize the McNeil Island prison from a maximum-security facility to a minimum-security facility, reducing the number of beds from 1,328 to 512.
Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, whose district includes McNeil Island, issued this statement:
“When the Legislature passed House Bill 1244 and the governor made it law, it became a given that facilities were going to be recommended for either downsizing or closure. I’m pleased that OFM has only suggested reducing the number of beds at McNeil Island rather than closing it down permanently, as there are a number of other services the facility provides, such as to the Special Commitment Center for violent sex predators also on the island.
“However, any time the state chooses to reduce the number of prison facilities for a one-time budget savings, while simultaneously releasing offenders from supervision, it is a recipe for an increase in arrests. Since Senate Bill 5288 took effect, community corrections officers tell me that low- and moderate-risk offenders who’ve been released are aware that DOC doesn’t have any control over them at all.
“When the cat’s away, the mice will play, and many of these offenders are back to using drugs, drinking and returning to their old habits because there simply are no controls. It’s only a matter of time before they’re rearrested for committing new crimes.
“That’s going to lead to a surge in the state’s prison population and force us to spend even more money in the near future to build new prisons or reactivate previously closed facilities at great expense. From both a budget and a public-safety standpoint, it just doesn’t make much sense.”