Gregoire names new head of prison system

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today named Eldon Vail new leader of the state’s prison system. Vail has served as interim secretary of the Washington state Department of Corrections since Nov. 24.

Gregoire said she wants Vail to focus on three goals: holding offenders accountable for their crimes, changing offender behavior before they leave prison and monitoring offender behavior once back in the community.

“I’m confident he will focus every tool in his arsenal to meet the No. 1 priority for corrections – public safety,” Gregoire said.

Vail has replaced former secretary Harold Clarke, who resigned in late 2007. State lawmakers and prison workers openly criticized the management style of Clarke, who faced public anger in late 2006 after felons on community supervision killed three King County law enforcement officers.

Vail returned to the department as deputy secretary last October after retiring in 2006. He served in the department for 31 years and retired as prisons deputy secretary.

Vail has served in the corrections department for 31 years.

“We will work to ensure that our prisons are safe now, and that offenders in the community are held accountable for their actions,” Vail said. “At the same time, we will implement programs that help offenders acquire the skills and self-control necessary to avoid criminal behavior later in life.”

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