For several days we've been hearing that a deal is near in Olympia on a new two-year state budget. But a deal is not done and a partial government shutdown looms. If you think that the prison system is untouchable, think again.
The Department of Corrections estimates that more than one-third of its staff is subject to lay-off if lawmakers don't approve a new operating budget by June 30.
"A shutdown would have a significant impact on the Department of Corrections," says prisons spokesman Chad Lewis. "We would have about 3,000 layoffs."
Lewis says new inmates would remain in county lock-ups and the prison system would suspend the supervision of offenders on parole. Roughly 15,000 of the 16,000 offenders would not be supervised in the community.
Most of the layoffs involve community corrections staff, what used to be called parole officers, who keep track of newly released inmates. "It's everything from holding [the offenders] accountable for their actions if they violate the terms of their supervision, getting them to treatment, field contact," explains Lewis. "It also includes the offenders checking in to their local field office. The community corrections officer would go to a house to search for drugs or alcohol."
There are cutbacks inside prison walls, too. That means inmates get meals and basic health services, but no programs to change offender behavior, no chemical dependency programs, and no family visits, no education programs and very few job opportunities, according to Lewis.
If lawmakers don't have a budget deal by June 30, corrections staff will no longer help serve arrest warrants, assist in fugitive captures and there will be no one to monitor electronic trackers worn by certain sex offenders.
The governor's office estimates that at least 25,000 workers face furlough and that a partial government shutdown will mean 34 state agencies will have to cease operations while another 24 agencies would face partial shutdowns.
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