The Washington State Department of Corrections operates 12 correctional facilities of which 10 are used to house male imamates while 2 are designated as female penitentiaries.Apart from these, the DOC also operates and overseas the functioning of fifteen work release facilities and numerous field offices.
Currently, over 17,000 inmates are housed in the 12 correctional facilities, all of which have varying missions and sizes.
Correctional facilities: Of the 12 penitentiaries operated by the Department of Corrections, 8 serves as maximum security prisons while 4 house imamates who were sentenced to a term in a minimum security facility. The latter hold convicts serving a prison term of no more than 4 years while the maximum security establishments are reserved for criminals serving 4 year to life sentences.
The Washington State Penitentiary, also called the Walla Walla Penitentiary is the only correctional center where death row inmates are held. It is also the only facility in the Washington Prison System where executions are carried out.
Work releases: While members of the Department of Corrections assist in the supervision of work release facilities and monitor case management and contracts of the offenders, the day to day running of all but one of these 15 establishments is entrusted to contractors. They manage the operations, safety and security of these facilities on a full-time basis (24/7). In essence, the Department Staff merely plays a supervisory role in these centers.
Offenders housed in work release facilities have progressed from full to partial confinement and hence they are expected to secure and maintain employment in the community to contribute towards their cost of board and upkeep.
These centers serve a twofold purpose; not only do they reduce burden on an already overstretched prison system with penitentiaries that are working well over maximum capacity, but also they gradually introduce inmates to the normal way of life and into the community. The model of work release centers is designed to ensure that offenders find employment and housing once they have served their sentence.
Washington State Prison Statistics
As of June, 2012, the prison system of the Washington State houses over 17,000 inmates of which male prisoners account for a figure just shy of 16,000 while only about 1200 female convicts are held in the incarceration facilities. In terms of ethnicity, Caucasians make up the bulk of the prison population at just about 70%, followed closely by African Americans at 19%, Hispanics at almost 12% Native Americans at a bit over 4%, and Asians at around 3%.The average prisoner age is about 38 years while the average incarceration period works out to a bit over 2 years.
The entry of a convict in the Washington State Prison System
Prisoners who have been sentenced for more than a year are first sent to the reception and diagnostic facility housed at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. This facility is meant for male prisoners while female convicts are taken to the Washington Corrections Center for Women. At these centers, prisoners are assigned a custody level; minimum, medium, close and maximum.
The classification is based on psychological and medical testing and evaluation which takes no more than 6 weeks to complete. Once the behavioral assessment is taken care of, offenders are placed in centers that offer the maximum security and safety to the public, center staff and other offenders.
Based on the custody level assigned to the offender, he/she is ferried to the most appropriate incarceration facility. However, prisoners often transition to lower custody levels upon exhibiting lower risk through behavior and programming
The Washington State Department of Corrections provides funding for several effective in-prison programs for the rehabilitation of convicts. These include:
- Basic education
- Vocation training
- Participation in the work of correctional industries
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Stress and anger management
- Drug dependency treatment
The Department of Corrections acknowledges that there is a greater scope for behavioral improvement in prisoners if they are allowed to maintain family ties during the incarceration period. To this end, many correctional facilities across the state provide visiting opportunities for family members of the convicts who are held in various prisons across the state. However, this is a facility specific program, so you will need to consult with the DOC website to find out if you can visit a specific incarceration center.