Who is in Washington’s prisons?

  • By Scott North
  • Monday, April 11, 2011 10:23am
  • Local News

Washington lawmakers are talking about trying to fill a multibillion-dollar hole in the state budget in part by freeing some inmates early from the state’s prisons. Sex offenders, murderers and those serving life without parole would not be eligible.

So who is behind bars in Washington? Check out this statistical snapshot from the state Department of Corrections. Compare it with the mug shot that appears with this post. That’s Jerry Perkins. He recently was sentenced to life after tallying three serious violent crimes, or “strikes,” among his 16 felony convictions. Cops reporter Rikki King wrote about Perkins’ life of crime. There are many inmates like him, especially repeat offenders doing life on the installment plan.As of December, 16,256 inmates were in the state prisons and another 1,741 were doing time in work release or in out-of-state lockups under contracts.

Like Perkins, most are white (seven out of 10). Data suggests there’s about an even chance they are doing time for a violent offense such as robbery, assault or homicide. Odds are about the same that they have been locked up before. One in five is behind bars for sex offenses.

Drug offenders make up less than 10 percent of the people in state prisons. That’s because many dope crimes bring sentences of less-than a year and are served in county jails. Property crimes account for about 3,000 of the state’s inmates. By contrast, nearly 2,700 are there for murder or manslaughter.

Perkins, 40, was a drug trafficker and thief, well known to local cops for stomping on girlfriends and people who owed him money. He now joins the roughly 3 percent of Washington’s inmates serving life. People with that sentence would not be eligible for release under any of the budget-balancing proposals. But before becoming a lifer, Perkins was in training, cycling in and out of the system for decades. Barring a successful appeal, he’s now one of the guys corrections officers will be working around for years to come, up close and personal.

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