by Joshua Phillips and Meredith Ruff
Governments across the nation are relaxing pandemic restrictions in the face of currently increasing cases and another new variant. Despite these relaxations, there is one place where the State admits that the pandemic is far from over: Washington’s prisons. At this point in the pandemic over 13,000 prisoners have tested positive for COVID while inside, which is likely an undercount of actual cases (The average prison population in Washington on a given day is currently between 12,000 and 14,000). This is compared to 20% positive rate overall. There is currently a large outbreak at Stafford Creek Corrections Center; the whole prison is basically locked down.
Continue reading OPINION: Prisoners Are Humans and Deserve Access to COVID Care
by Paul Faruq Kiefer
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted with permission.)
When the only work release facility for women in King County closed last November, it sparked no public outcry — in fact, Washington’s Department of Corrections (DOC) didn’t even announce it was closing. But for women from King County awaiting their transfer from prison to a work release facility, the closure of the Helen B. Ratcliff House in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood presented a new hurdle.
Continue reading Closure of King County’s Only Work Release for Women Raises Gender Equity Questions
by Paul Kiefer
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Last Friday, Washington’s Office of Corrections Ombuds (OCO) released the final recommendations from a nearly two-year-long review of the State’s work release program that found an alarming pattern of retaliation and arbitrary discipline by contract staff at work release centers across the state.
Work release centers are housing facilities for people in DOC custody; residents stay for less than a year, transitioning back into normal life by working civilian jobs, visiting family members, and attending counseling sessions.
Since the State legislature created the OCO as the oversight agency for the State Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2018, the office has repeatedly investigated allegations about work release staffers responding to criticism or complaints by returning residents to prison for minor rule violations.
Continue reading Investigation of Work Release Centers Spurs Changes; Advocates Proceed with Caution
by Bunthay Cheam
On Wednesday, June 16, Gov. Inslee received a demand letter, signed by over 60 community organizations, calling for an end to Washington State’s ongoing collaboration with ICE. In tandem with the letter was a press conference, “A Call to Gov. Inslee to End the DOC to Deportation Pipeline.”
The letter and press conference were organized by the Liberation Not Deportation Coalition which consists of over 60 grassroots groups and individuals that organize on behalf of and by community members impacted by the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and its partnership with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arm of the Department of Homeland Security through a prison to deportation pipeline.
Continue reading Community Group Demands Govenor Inslee End Cooperation With ICE
by Hannah Bolotin
On Jan. 14, 2021, the Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) published a report summarizing numerous cases of delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment by the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), highlighting the ways in which DOC’s negligence has led to several preventable prisoner deaths.
In yet another example of DOC’s negligence, the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCC-W) has been rebuffing a prisoner’s requests for treatment for rapid development of potentially cancerous tumors for years. Several years ago, Patricia Teafatiller noticed a mass on her neck. A year and a half ago, a second lump developed along her spine. Patricia sought medical care and was told it was just a knot in her neck. She was subsequently informed she had degenerative disk disease to explain away the mass on her spine, saying nothing of her symptoms and masses in other locations. The lumps have continued to grow, more masses have appeared, and none have diminished. Her neck has grown increasingly stiff; she describes it as feeling like it is in a vice, with a grinding, popping sensation whenever she moves her chin towards her chest. The results of the ultrasound that was eventually ordered were inconclusive, warranting an MRI and/or biopsy to confirm whether the masses are benign or malignant — the standard of care in any medical practice.
Continue reading OPINION: DOC’s Medical Negligence and Dehumanization of Prisoners Must End