Rep. Schmick says state ignoring facts in proposed Pine Lodge closure

'When all the relevant factors are weighed, closing Pine Lodge to save the state money makes no sense,' says Schmick

 

In her efforts to deal with Washington's estimated $2.6 billion budget shortfall, Gov. Christine Gregoire has proposed closing Pine Lodge Corrections Center, Eastern Washington's only minimum security prison for women.

Rep. Joe Schmick, whose 9th District boundaries include Medical Lake where Pine Lodge is located, said he has researched the issue extensively and has met with community leaders and facility staff in an effort to understand every aspect of the potential closure.

“When all the relevant factors are weighed, closing Pine Lodge to save the state money makes no sense,” said Schmick, R-Colfax.  “It's entirely possible that with higher recidivism rates and higher per-inmate costs at other institutions, closing Pine Lodge will actually lead to a significant increase in costs down the road.  Besides, the need for more capacity for women inmates is growing, not shrinking.  It makes no sense for the state to try and save $10 million by closing Pine Lodge while at the same time budgeting $75 million for a future new women's facility on the West side of the state.”

Schmick joined other local legislators last month in calling for a special town hall meeting in Medical Lake to discuss the Pine Lodge issue and to hear firsthand from the staff and community that would be affected by the facility's closure.

“First and foremost are the local, family-wage jobs that would be lost if Pine Lodge closes,” Schmick said.  “Our region has some of the highest unemployment rates in the state.  Losing these jobs would hurt our local economy at a time when employers and families are struggling to make ends meet.

“We also have a community that has openly embraced this facility, with benefits flowing back and forth between the inmates and the local folks,” said Schmick.

The 9th District representative said Pine Lodge contributes to the community in several tangible ways:

  • In 2009, over 7,000 pounds of food produced from the facility garden were donated to local food banks;
  • Six women from Pine Lodge are needed to operate the Medical Lake Recycling Center;
  • The women cut and pile wood, which is given to low-income families and the elderly for heating needs;
  • The women make blankets, hats, gloves, and other clothing items for the homeless and other organizations;
  • The women operate as groundskeepers for both Eastern State Hospital and Lakeland Village; and
  • There were 5,902 hours of community service donated to Pine Lodge offenders in 2009.

“All of these areas enrich others in the community and cannot be dismissed lightly,” Schmick said.  “Furthermore, the state's own $500,000 study done by an independent contractor did not recommend Pine Lodge for closure.

“When all is said and done, the supposed motivation for closing Pine Lodge is to save money.  However, a closer look at the details shows the math just doesn't add up,” Schmick continued.  “It's obvious to me the State of Washington, the employees and their families, the community, and the women's prison system at large cannot afford to close Pine Lodge Corrections Center.”

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For more information, contact: Brendon Wold, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7698

 

PineLodge9thDistrictLegislators

PHOTO CUTLINE: (from Left to Right) Sen. Mark Schoesler, Rep. Joe Schmick, Rep. Susan Fagan (all R-9th District) and Rep. Shelly Short (R-7th District) listen to testimony at the Pine Lodge town hall meeting on Jan. 30 in Medical Lake.

 

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