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Bringing Prisons into The 21st Century

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"A study...compared illegal activity in the yard before and after the honors program was established. It showed that weapons infractions decreased 88%, violence and threatening behavior dropped 85% and drug-related offences and trafficking were down 43%."  -L.A. Times 
  

   This website aims to raise public awareness of the pervasive risk of harm that Washington's Department of Corrections' violent prison culture poses toward staff and prisoners alike. Both, despite their differences, share a basic goal: not just survival, but the creation of a safe and secure environment for ALL concerned.

     All who are associated with this website, whether those whose stories appear hereon, or those who one way or another support the above mentioned objective, simply want the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) to move swiftly to create a "Sensitive Needs Yard" (SNY), so that prisoners who want and choose to can safely get out of the snakepit of violence, drugs and criminality that currently defines the dangerous state of things within WDOC.

     Without minimizing the need to secure a safer environment for staff who have to work the "line," or the rights of prisoners who have to live the "line," we also emphasize our agreement with former WDOC Secretary, Mr. Eldon Vail, who, in the aftermath of the tragic murder of WDOC corrections officer Ms. Jayne Biendl, stated (paraphrase): SAFE COMMUNITIES BEGIN WITH SAFE AND SECURE PRISONS.

     The logic in this statement is undeniable. But the problem lies in the disconnect between theory and practice. Safer communities do indeed depend on safer prisons, but safer prisons depend on THE POLITICAL WILL TO MAKE THEM SO.

     WDOC is an archipelago of prisons that are, to quote the United States Supreme Court:

"...places of involuntary confinement of persons who have a demonstrated proclivity for anti-social criminal, and often violent, conduct. Inmates have necessarily shown a lapse in ability to control and conform their behavior to the legitimate standards of society by the normal impulses of self-restraint; they have shown an inability to regulate their conduct in a way that reflects either a respect for law or an appreciation of the rights of others."

     Nevertheless, prison administrators and staff are constitutionally charged with the challenging responsibilities of keeping themselves safe while ensuring that prisoners receive adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care, and that reasonable measures guaranteeing prisoners' safety are in place, for the highest court in the United States has long made it clear:

" No iron curtain separates prison inmates from constitutional protections."

     Why no "iron curtain"? "[W]hen the state takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will," says the US Supreme Court, "the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his safety and general well being." In support of this legal principle, the same Court explained its logic:

"[H]aving stripped [prisoners] of virtually every means of self-protection and foreclosed their access to outside aid, the government and its officials are not free to let the state of nature take its course."

     This gets us back to reality: There's an entire ocean of space between Mr. Vail's logical formula for safe communities, and the day-to-day realities behind WDOC's closed doors. The state of nature has taken its course in WDOC's prisons, and because this is so, neither staff, prisoners nor our communities are safe.

   

(SEE article at "How Sensitive Needs Yards save taxpayers millions every year" in index bar.)

Safer Communities Begin With Safer Prisons