Monroe Correctional Complex (Washington State Department of Corrections)

Monroe Correctional Complex (Washington State Department of Corrections)

Inslee signs order to free hundreds of nonviolent prisoners

The state may release up to 950 inmates as officials look to prevent COVID-19 deaths behind bars.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee signed a proclamation and a commutation order Wednesday, clearing the way for the state to free up to 950 inmates, in response to a state Supreme Court order to better protect inmates from COVID-19 in prisons.

Inslee’s action came hours after the state Department of Corrections reported three more inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex tested positive for the disease. As of Wednesday, 10 prisoners and five staff have become infected with the coronavirus.

Last week amid news of the initial outbreak, dozens of prisoners in a minimum security wing of the Monroe prison had refused orders in a kind of protest, leading an armed response team to use pepper spray and rubber pellets to quell the unrest.

The commutation order applies to prisoners with an earned release date before June 30, as long as they were not convicted of a violent or sexual offense. It directs their release within seven days. About 18,000 people are held in state prisons, meaning the order could affect about 5 percent of the inmate population.

The order requires state Corrections to make a reasonable effort to contact victims and witnesses at least 48 hours in advance of a prisoner’s release.

The proclamation waives or suspends portions of several statutes, allowing early release of inmates who might not have completed release plans.

Both measures are in effect through May 15.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.


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