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Senate panel: Close McNeil Island prison

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 27, 2010 at 12:26 pm with 30 Comments »
February 27, 2010 6:05 pm

Senators are moving to close McNeil Island Corrections Center.

The island prison would close by June 30, 2011, under a change Friday night to Senate Democrats’ budget plan, which originally called for downsizing the prison to move out nearly half of its 1,200 inmates.

The budget could be up for a vote on the Senate floor within hours.

The hand that taketh away from McNeil also giveth to Larch Corrections Center near Vancouver. The original Senate plan called for closing Larch and the House wants to downsize it, but the new proposal approved Friday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee would leave Larch untouched.

The goal is to save $25 million more than under the old plan, Senate Democrats said. That’s the price of shuttering McNeil and keeping Larch open with 480 beds.

Being on an island, the place is costly to operate, from its separate utility systems to its reliance on a ferry.

The Teamsters, whose ranks include more than 500 McNeil employees, complained that the plan ignores a consultant’s advice that closing McNeil is not an option because of the sexual predators who are also housed on the island at the Special Commitment Center.

Closing the prison would mean lost jobs and lack of space for a growing prison population, said Tracey Thompson, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.

UPDATED with video of Pierce County legislators sparring with Vancouver-area legislators Friday night. Sen. Mike Carrell in particular was not happy: “I want somebody on this committee to volunteer their district for that sex offender program, because it is a matter of public safety.”

But Sen. Joe Zarelli assured him there are plans for adding security to keep the Special Commitment Center on McNeil: “Nobody’s suggesting that we simply leave them in the hotel all by themselves.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Senate has approved its spending plan. The package of changes to a $30.5 billion, tw0-year operating budget includes the closure of McNeil Island prison.

Leave a comment Comments → 30
  1. Lets turn it into the Alcatraz of the PNW

  2. Whatever1214 says:

    To save real money and make things more appropriate, lets close the capitol in Olympia and move the state government to McNeil. That way, when we grow tired of them, we can cancel the ferry.

  3. buksknr1 says:

    The prisoners should be moved into the homes of the Legislators who want to close the prison.

  4. interWOLFone says:

    Thanks, Whatever1214…I was just taking a swig of Pepsi when I read your remark. Pepsi through the schnozola is always an adventure.

  5. Maybe they are thinking of razing the prison grounds and reselling all that prime waterfront. I wonder how many homes you could fit on all that land and they would already have a sewage treatment plant onsite. Remember way back when the feds took over the island and booted the then residents off ?

  6. I am so sick and tired of this scum in Olympia !

    There never have, nor will they ever have any idea whtsoever what an average hard working taxpayer goes thru !

    BUT, this is what you get in Washington State, aka: Hug-A-Thug Land – where the rights of the criminals always trump the rights of the citizen !

  7. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Enjoy the ride “ignorant electorate” – when will you learn to vote out the socialist democrats!!!!

  8. votethemout says:

    Vote them all out everywhere, these people are idiots that don’t take their job seriously, just watch the video after the closure segment where there’s a pool bet on when they get out of there.
    Can’t these morons take their blinders off and look down the road, you can’t get by by looking at your feet ALL the time. There are two (2) departments out there, look down the road and you will see, take from one the other has to pick up the slack, hence there will be no savings only increase in operational costs.
    Dig a little deeper in your studies and you just might see this, don’t just read the highlights or even God forbid “think” you know whats going on.
    Who knows the way those moron legislators are acting that island is doomed which means us tax payers are doomed with ultimately higher costs.

    Vote them all out this November, the whole house is up for re-election, if their an incumbant vote for the other person. Its time for change!

  9. screwybruce says:

    Gee I wonder who has shares in Larch? Can we get a news sourch watch dog to find out for us? I think that all the inmates should be with the rest of the crooks in Olympia.

  10. Maybe we are all missing the ‘boat’ on this one. Whenever lying scumbags vote for something, I have to ask why they would do this? It’s an island correct? Who would benefit from this vote? I missed the part how many luxury homes could be built on this land or? You just know that someone is licking their chops for this to happen. Is it a relative or close associate of a member of the legislature? I don’t know how far this goes, but who benefits from this action? Just a thought…

  11. elmerfudd says:

    Close it down, turn it into a park and ship the inmates someplace cheaper, like Mexico.

    Seriously, it’s an expensive place to operate and not all that much more secure than other prisons. You can practically wade across to the Key Peninsula on a low tide. Plus it would make a spectacular state park.

  12. retired81 says:

    What are they going to do with the 1200 inmates. Larch is only a 400 bed facility.

  13. votethemout says:

    Seriously elmerfudd, you gotta go back to school just to learn to speak. If your not part of the solution….. your an idiot like the elected officials. that island can’t be developed unless its a prison, it’s a designated wild life refuge owned by the feds. If the prison were to close the island still needs to be maintained, especially with DSHS, AKA “Preditor island” there, other wise everything must go!!

    Can’t people, or for that matter INVESTGATIVE REPORTERS do any research, especially on realestate deeds involved with the island, its all right there. Besides wouldn’t an island be the best place for the worst of the worst?

  14. noclosure says:

    Without getting emotional over this issue…because I believe it is and absolutely ludicrous decision and just more ways to hurt our people.

    Given that, I’d like to know how they can look at the recent $1.5 million they spent on a new barge slip that is 10 times the slip Steilacoom has for the Pierce County ferry, the wasted funds to become ACA accredited not to mention the millions of dollars worth of disposed of products, tools, supplies, etc that did not conform to ACA accreditation. That’s right, our tax dollars being thrown in the trash!

    After closing MICC for 365 days, it would immediately revert back to Federal property. Now from my understanding – maybe I’m wrong – But this would require bringing the property back up to Federal standards. So how much is THAT going to cost?

    Closing MICC is NO savings. They will need to build another prison and positions WILL need to be filled to maintain what is currently on the island.

    This action is simply a rob Peter to pay Paul method of disguising other ways to over spend and not be accountable for spending.

  15. I applaud the Senate for a courageous decision for closing McNeil Island. It was an incredibly stupid idea to put a state prison on the island to begin with. Keeping Larch open on the other hand is an interesting concept. Don’t believe a word what Mike Carrell says he has little or no credibility neither does the 117. Everything will be just fine. By the way the consultants report said what the department of corrections wanted it to say, hence the senates decision shows lack of confidence of the leadership of DOC.

  16. noclosure says:

    What Mike Carrell said is 100% fact!

  17. thesmurfiest1 says:

    Thanks! Whatever1214 says:
    FEBRUARY 27, 2010 AT 1:28 PM
    ” To save real money and make things more appropriate, lets close the capitol in Olympia and move the state government to McNeil. That way, when we grow tired of them, we can cancel the ferry.” I laughed so hard, I almost peed my pants. That was priceless. But oh so true.

  18. siragwatkins says:

    I’m certainly not anxious to have any more sexual predators roaming our streets, but I wish that some of the commentors would come up with real suggestions instead of just complaining about elected officials.

  19. wintwins says:

    Build a new prison in Garfield County. Time to spread the joy!

  20. oldcenturian says:

    Let’s review the facts about McNeil Island Corrections Center:
    1. It is a pretty secure facility, with very few successful escapes during its 100+ year history.
    2. It does have higher operating and maintenance costs than the other prisons.
    3. Both Pierce County’s and Steilacoom’s economy benefit from having MICC employees live and work in the area. It does cost the County to provide law enforcement response to the prison.
    4. Pierce County’s crime rate should be reduced by closing the prison, as the families and friends of inmates won’t be drawn to the area.
    5. Everything spent to date on the prison facility construction is a “sunk cost”…this shouldn’t be factored in to the cost-benefit analysis.
    6. Closing the prison doesn’t mean the inmates will be released; they’ll be transferred to other corrections facilities.
    7. The prison can be closed without demolishing the facilities. The place can be “mothballed”, and re-opened in the future if the economy and the need support doing that.

    Bottom Line: The citizens of Washington State want the State Government to cut spending. This move appears to do just that.

  21. noclosure says:

    Don’t know how many of you have actually seen McNeil, but to close this facility is a very bad mistake. The amount of land and area for farming could be used to make McNeil self sufficient, not to mention cut operating costs per inmate. The issue with livestock is a hands tied issue from the Feds. No new livestock was to be brought/born on McNeil after the cattle etc died off from the original Fed days.

    Originally, McNeil sustained itself and provided for other institutions with the raising of beef, pork, poultry etc. This also gave working inmates jobs and a trade for when they are released. It currently DOES cut and wrap meat for other institutions however it is trucked in meat rather than island raised meat. Doesn’t bringing about a self sustaining situation make more sense than throwing away all the funds JUST recently put into McNeil by shutting it down?

    This move will not only destroy Steilacoom, but also Lakewood and surrounding areas. Wonder how those unemployed are going to cough up Chris’s new bottled water tax and all the other new taxes she plans of putting into play?

    How about the kiddy tax? Mom’s and dad’s will be without jobs, so how are the children going to pay the taxes on candy and pop…this is a horrific move in my honest opinion. Take away jobs, destroy local economy and throw well invested funds in the trash once again. If any of you knew just how much has recently been “Thrown in the Trash” LITERALLY…it would make you absolutely sick!

    It’s a BAD move…and a costly one!

    Other issues that you all need to understand, with this move, McNeil Prison will shut down, but DSHS will still be running. They are currently being paid for the SO’s they house, by other states. They will need employees for ferries, barges, and maintenance as well as guards. Where is the savings? DSHS will need a fire department, medical staff, maintenance, deckhands, captains, guards as well emergency response of some form. Many of these positions are currently being filled by inmates. When you look at what needs to STILL be in working order, regardless of the institution, there won’t be inmates working, so full time employees will need to be put into place where Inmate workers are currently in employ and the savings will be moot. It will simply be a different account that the funds come from. The budget will NOT decrease, but will certainly INCREASE…it will simply be funds from elsewhere!

    OFM did a study on what the institution would save under this move. With the info above, it would cost the State in excess of $53 million MORE to employ full time individuals in order to replace cheap inmate labor currently being used.

  22. noclosure says:

    Sorry for the additional post, but I suppose if you want to point out the facts, then you first need to know the facts.

    One more FACT that I forgot to mention, if you read above, if MICC is closed, the meat plant will no longer supply the other institutions unless staffed, once again, by non inmate personnel. What does this mean? Meat will need to be purchased, cut and wrapped elsewhere and the cost per inmate, State wide, will rise. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that it is cost prohibitive and far from cost effective.

    This is only part of the red tape that they don’t want you to know about. So those who don’t understand the pros for MICC, will only see the flagrant – ridiculous ideas on how much will be saved. As I said previously, it’s a ploy to make tax payers THINK it will save when in the real world…it will cost FAR more. It’s a smoke screen to hide the fact that several of those Democratic Senators who have been pushing to close MICC for over 30 years, are from the very district where they want to keep a tiny insignificant institution open. A ploy in order to keep jobs in their own back yard and they’re not looking at the big painful picture of what their idiocy and greed will do to ALL of WA state. These very bureaucrats have been pushing to build prisons in their own back yards, in order to gain kudos for creating positions. What about those positions they will be depleting? Not to mention all the additional costs NOT MENTIONED in the information they’ve spoon fed us?

    As far as selling off the land and building luxury homes, this is an impossibility! Not in the cards! It’s a wildlife refuge and protected by the federal government.

    I think you’ll find your reasons above for the push on closure. It’s a ladder climbing stunt to gain recognition in other districts. What better way to get what you want than to point out all the flaws? Smoke screen all the real numbers and make people think it’s a positive move. Though flawed in some areas, it’s also a very large benefit to the economy of ALL OF WA to LEAVE IT OPEN and work toward fixing some of those flaws! Also know that this is a major historical landmark.

  23. noclosure says:

    4. Pierce County’s crime rate should be reduced by closing the prison, as the families and friends of inmates won’t be drawn to the area.

    What are you daft? Because an idiot makes a mistake and ends up in prison, that makes all the family members and friends criminals too???

    I’m sure glad you aren’t on my jury!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. votethemout says:

    I agree with noclosure, we all have to watch the slight of hand and misdirection these half fast legislators are pulling. Remember fellow taxpayers this will be more out of your pocket, isn’t enough…enough!!! Vote them all out, lets start with a fresh set of eyes and brains.

  25. noclosure says:

    Votethemout – Thank you for your comments….

    If any half witted human would take a look at the numbers (even the above video that drops savings down to 7 million what a crock!) They would see that there is SO much that MICC, IN OPPERATION could offer the entire state. Even if they want to build more institutions! The entire island is approximately 12 square miles. Full of amazing area for farmlife or even gardening. Teach the inmates how to raise and slaughter meats..grow and can fruits and vegetables. What better way to lower inmate costs?

    Know that there is also a HUGE apple orcharad on island…that used to be used for food…now is ignored and pushed aside for the deer and raccoons. We’re talking about close to 150 apple trees that USED to supply apples to
    FEDERAL inmates, nation wide.

    Have many years knowledge from my grandfather and father, so there is little you will tell me that I can say…oh yeah that’s true when it isn’t! Yes they both worked for the BOP both were feds!

    I’m sorry, but our governer has chapped my hide with her promises for re-election and has YET to fulfill her obligation!

    I have much inside info for MANY years back….so my comments come from knowledge not speculation!

  26. votethemout says:

    Let it out noclosure, let it out….

    It would be good for people to know the “truths” instead of the promises and lies that these politicians and upper management feed the “line crew” meaning the low end workers and tax payers.

  27. noclosure says:

    Sad story…the apple orchard used to be

  28. noclosure says:

    wow…this sever sucks…I’ll continue my post shortly…it posted prematurely…

  29. noclosure says:

    Well rather than continue on and on about more issues and facts, I think we should all email our District House Reps immediately. I think most of you get the picture. What you don’t know CAN harm you and this move will harm our entire state.

    The house has not decided yet and so the outcome is not decided. I wouldn’t be so disgusted over this, had the truthful facts been brought up, but the facts are being twisted and manipulated as politicians are quite well known for. Does not “The Good of the Many Outweigh the Good of the Few”?

    Locate your reps here….

    Maybe being inundated by emails from Tax payers who are sick to death of waste would make them think twice. Yes there is reason to bring up the funds that have been pumped into unnecessary areas and paying (our tax dollars) for consultation from a private company and then completely throwing those recommendations in the trash. Doesn’t it feel good to have our leaders throw our money away? And then wonder why we’re in debt to such a degree. Where is the financial accountability?

  30. votethemout says:

    Again noclosure, very well put I must agree 100%…..

    O.K. everyone inundate your legislators or others for that matter of how wrong and shortsighted they really are. Aren’t you all pissed about the abuse of OUR money by these nimrods who obviously don’t give a #$%^ about the big picture, which is why the’re there in the first place. ALL they’re trying to do is show face to get re-elected, AT OUR EXPENSE!

    Vote them all out, November is OUR time to really speak so let them all know politics shouldn’t be a career but an honor that all shoul share.

    Get rid of these bureaucratic leeches sucking the lifeblood (our money) from all of us and lets start fresh. New beginnings CANNOT be as bad as this rehetoric bunch of clowns.


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