OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — State corrections officials have started consolidating partially filled housing units at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe as part of a plan to deal with thousands of empty beds in correctional facilities statewide.
By mid-August, housing units at seven prisons, including two minimum security units in the Monroe Correctional Complex, are to be closed, the Everett Herald reported.
Eventually, the 111-year-old reformatory will be shuttered under details released Monday by Corrections Secretary Cheryl Strange. The capacity of that unit is 720 inmates. The entire complex has a capacity of 2,400.
The Department of Corrections is wrestling with a shrinking prisoner population and pressure from the Legislature and governor to pare spending by $80 million.
As of Monday, roughly 4,000 of the state’s 17,000 prison beds were empty. Part of the reason is that local courts sentenced fewer people to prison terms during the pandemic. Plus, more than 1,000 incarcerated men and women got released under a state Supreme Court order to ease crowding to reduce prisoners’ risk of exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus.
And a ruling by the same high court earlier this year struck down the state’s longstanding drug possession law, allowing for the release of dozens convicted under that now-invalidated statute.