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Washington State Supreme Court denies motion to release prison inmates

Washington State Supreme Court. (Harvey Barrison, Flickr)

In a 5-4 ruling, the Washington State Supreme Court has denied a motion to release thousands of inmates from state prisons, including many dangerous offenders.

The lawsuit claimed Gov. Inslee and the Department of Corrections were not able to provide safe conditions for prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full ruling

The Attorney General’s office and victims expressed concern that it would have meant some of the state’s most dangerous people would be back on the streets. Tonya Fenton told KTTH’s Jason Rantz that could have included Isaac Zamora, who killed six people, including her mom, in 2008.

The state AG’s office estimated that under the broadest interpretation of the petition, about 12,000 inmates would have been eligible for release.

That would have included the release of any inmate over 50 years old, anyone with an underlying health condition, or anyone with 18 months or less left on their sentence. Under those standards, that could also have included serial killers, like Green River Killer Gary Ridgway.

Petitioners filing the case, though, argued that the state would be able to exercise discretion to prevent inmates like Ridgway from being released.

WA Supreme Court hears case arguing for release of thousands of inmates

The state’s case against releasing more inmates was largely rooted in the argument that prisons have already taken appropriate measures, including a previous release of inmates with scheduled release dates in June.

KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott contributed to this report.

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