Monroe Correctional Complex. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Monroe Correctional Complex. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

State will close a minimum security unit at Monroe prison

Corrections officials had targeted two units in the first phase of closures. No date for action.

OLYMPIA — Housing units at seven state prisons, including a minimum security unit at the Monroe Correctional Complex, will be closed in the near future, corrections officials announced late Tuesday.

Conversations continue on potential additional closures at Monroe, including a second minimum security unit and the living units of the Washington State Reformatory, according to a letter issued Tuesday by Corrections Secretary Cheryl Strange.

A memo issued a week ago said no final decisions on closures had been made.

Meanwhile, the department is working to consolidate less-than-full living units at the reformatory, the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla and the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. In each case, some prisoners will be moved into new quarters. This could result in having two people in a cell where before each person had their own.

The department is dealing with a shrinking prisoner population and a directive from the Legislature and governor to pare spending by $80 million in the current two-year budget.

As of Monday, roughly 4,000 of the state’s 17,000 prison beds were empty. There’s been a 54% decrease in prison admissions from March 2020 to June 2021 compared to the same time frames in 2019 and 2020, according to the department.

It is anticipated as many as 3,000 more beds could open up in the next two years because the state is expanding eligibility for its Graduated Reentry Program, which lets some prisoners serve the final months of their sentences under home detention. Reducing the need for prison beds is projected to save the state $22.6 million in operating costs the next two years.

Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com; @dospueblos

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