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Prison-unit mothball plans by state DOC makes cuts in Monroe

MONROE — The state prison system is consolidating capacity, including in Monroe. It is in response to having less inmates, especially low-level offenders, according to the state Department of Corrections (DOC).
The Monroe Correctional Complex is comprised of five separate units.
DOC has closed two larger cellblocks of the Washington State Reformatory Unit that housed minimum-security inmates. These inmates are being moved into areas of the Reformatory that house medium-security prisoners.
According to the DOC, consolidating units will not cause staff reductions.
The DOC is considering two waves of future closures. Monroe Correctional Complex is among the state prison facilities affected. 
For the first wave, in Monroe it is considering closing one of the four cellblocks of the Minimum Security Unit. 
For the second wave, in Monroe it is considering closing the remaining two cellblocks in the Washington State Reformatory and a second cellblock of the four-cell Minimum Security Unit.
“The Department of Corrections has experienced a gradual decline in prison populations over the past four years related to various sentencing changes and expanded diversion efforts,” the state agency says in a Frequently Asked Questions overview.
“Of the 17,000 total prison beds statewide, approximately 4,000 are empty as of July 20, 2021, and that number is expected to grow,” the DOC said through a news release.
It cites a few factors for having less prisoners, including “the expansion of community-based reentry programs” and the State v. Blake Supreme Court decision.
Drug possession is now a gross misdemeanor that can put someone in county jail, but no longer a felony that requires prison time.
Corrections has seen a 54% decrease in prison admissions from March 2020 to June 2021 compared to the same time frames in 2019 and 2020, the DOC said.
Another factor is that all state government agencies must reduce their budgets as part of a belt-tightening effort from the Legislature. For the DOC, it requires the department to reduce prison spending by $80 million over the next two years, according to the DOC.
Neither the units in Monroe that specialize in serious mental illness nor the Twin Rivers Unit are being considered for closure.




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