From Mass Incarceration to Custom Incarceration


In a recent memo, the WA DOC has disclosed a plan to close a bunch of different units across the state, including one whole facility. Though, they glossed over the fact that they are closing the entirety of Washington State Reformatory Unit (WSRU). What follows is a list of all the proposed unit closures, I’ve added a few comments here and there in parentheses. It’s quite the list.

Monroe Correctional Complex

  • WSRU: A, B, C, D
    (The entirety of my “mother institution”! And yes, that is what the first prison one does time at is called. It’s caged children. It’s caged adults. It’s stolen people’s hope for over a hundred years. This one getting shut down shows all of them can be shut down.)
  • TRU: B, C
    (This represents half of TRU and includes the “therapeutic community” where sex offender treatment takes place.)
  • MSU: A, B

Mission Creek Correctional Center for Women

  • Bear

Clallam Bay Correctional Center (CRCC)

  • C

Coyote Ridge Correctional Center (CRCC)

  • E, F
  • MSU: Camas

Larch Correctional Center (LCC)

  • Silverstar

Washington Correctional Center for Women (WCCW) Purdy

  • MSC: K

Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) Walla Walla

  • MSU (East Complex): Unit 10
    (Used to be Unit 5. Unit 5 was the protective custody of the original prison behind the walls. It was retrofitted at a cost of many millions of dollars to tax payers shortly before I left Walla Walla and reopened as Unit 10, an incentive unit for good little warden’s pets.)
  • West Complex: Golf
    (Very surprising. I never would have expected any of the closed custody units to be closed down. Let alone one that has a dog program.)

Olympic Correctional Complex (OCC)

  • Clearwater

The reason the WA DOC is giving for shutting down these units is a sharp reduction in the sheer number of incarcerated people in Washington state. I would say this is something to celebrate, but… there’s an itsy-bitsy itty-bitty tiny massive fly in the ointment.

A major contributor to the reduction of prison population is the GRE (Graduated Re-Entry) program. Instead of having people serve the last six months to a year of their prison sentence in prison, the WA DOC is tossing an ankle monitor on them and letting them do that time under house arrest. Since most people who are eligible for GRE have 18 months of community custody to do, and they are able to do work release for the last year of their sentence, this amounts to three years of a person being “out in the community” while still under the thumb of the PIC.

Furthermore, when a person is on GRE or community custody everyone in their household is also under the microscope of the PIC. WA DOC officers can legally invade their home at any time without a search warrant and go through anything they like, take anything they like, break anything they like. As long as they have the flimsiest of pretexts of “searching for suspected evidence”, it’s legal.

In short, the recently released person and everyone they live with completely sacrifice their right to only be subjected to search and seizure when reasonable as decided by a judge for a minimum of 2 years, possibly (probably) longer.

I feel like I am the only incarcerated person who sees this. Everyone I talk to is frothing at the mouth to get into this program. They see it as freedom, and I understand why. When a person is in the IMU, the c/o’s will refer to closed custody as “more freedom” queuing incarcerated people to discuss it using the same terms. The same happens when a person is in closed custody in regards to medium, and the same happens in medium custody regarding minimum. At every step this happens. When I critique this and say “it’s not more freedom, it’s less oppression” I get the dirtiest looks and vehement push back from staff. Incarcerated people simply nod and say “you have a point.” We, as incarcerated people are conditioned to equate less restrictive environments with “freedom” which then leads people to confuse being on an ankle monitor with being out of prison and, uncritically, gloss over the potential impact on their housemates.

So yes, let’s shut down as many prisons as soon as we can. But as we do, let’s not turn each house, condo, and apartment into individualized personal correctional complexes.


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