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Sen. Hargrove: Moving Special Commitment Center possible but unlikely

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on March 4, 2011 at 10:30 am |
March 4, 2011 10:33 am
Lui Kit Wong/Staff photographer

There’s talk in the Legislature of moving McNeil Island’s sexual predators to the mainland.

Lawmakers like Sen. Jim Hargrove have floated the idea of moving the Special Commitment Center. But Hargrove threw cold water on the idea’s chances when I asked him about it this morning.

“I don’t think it’s very likely to happen,” said Hargrove, the Democratic chairman of the Human Services and Corrections committee.

A possible new location is a facility in Grand Mound where the state is about to close a juvenile lockup.

Reaction to the idea among Lewis County lawmakers ranges from opposition to tentative support, according to a report by Marqise Allen of the Chronicle, who broke the story that the Maple Lane School site is being considered.

There’s no proposal to move it, Hargrove said. The idea came up when he talked to Lewis County’s delegation about what to do with the juvenile detention site. Local lawmakers are interested in locating a prison there. “They’re concerned with the job loss down there at Maple Lane,” Hargrove said.

Hargrove said the state could save money by moving the sex-offender center, helping dent a $5 billion state shortfall. The downside of its current location is the high cost of running an island detention center, especially now that the prison that shares the island is being closed and its cheap inmate labor is going away.

The upside of the island location: avoiding the not-in-my-backyard outrage that is sure to flare up anywhere that is considered for a new home.

Republican Sen. Mike Carrell said the talk vindicates his long insistence that the Special Commitment Center won’t be able to survive alone on the island once the prison is gone.

But Hargrove maintains the prison closure still pencils out as a savings to the state. Moving the sex-offender lockup to the mainland would be an extra savings beyond that, he said.

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