The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) has identified hundreds of inmates who will be released early from prisons out of coronavirus concerns.
The DOC on Thursday issued a roster of the of inmates who will be released in the coming days due to Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency order this week authorizing commutations, furloughs and other measures to reduce prison populations vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The list made public by the DOC includes names of more than 1,100 individuals — a higher number than the 950 Inslee and DOC had announced earlier this week. The releases are intended for incarcerated people who are not currently serving time for violent or sex offenses, and who are nearing the end of their sentences, according to the agency.
Susan Biller, a spokeswoman for DOC, said the list has been given to staff at all 12 prisons in the state with the directive that they begin releasing inmates over the next couple days if possible. “It’s a process,” she said. “It’s happening at all facilities.”
Corrections officials provided names of inmates approved for commutations, rapid reentry and work release furloughs, but the lists posted online do not include their offenses or the prisons where they are being held.
The agency said its staff will confirm that all individuals transferring to the community will have an established address and a current Washington state identification, and that the current sentence being served is for non-violent offenses.
The governor has ordered Corrections Secretary Steve Sinclair to identify additional incarcerated people who may be vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak and who may be safely released into the community.
The move came after the state Supreme Court, in a lawsuit brought by inmate advocates, ordered Inslee and Sinclair last week to take “all necessary steps” to protect the prison population from the pandemic.
The lawsuit by Columbia Legal Services seeks an order for the release of several thousand more people from state lockups. Nick Allen, an attorney for the group, acknowledged the governor’s order as a “a first step” but added, “we don’t believe this order goes far enough.” The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the lawsuit on April 23.
However, Republican lawmakers have criticized Inslee for authorizing so many early releases. “The fact that the administration is acquiescing to a yet-unfinished court proceeding is troubling,” said Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, in a statement this week.
Wagoner said DOC has taken actions to contain the virus, which has infected 10 inmates at Monroe Correctional Complex, a number he pointed out is small compared with the approximately 19,000 people in state custody.