November 20, 2010 in City

McNeil prison to close

Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Officials conduct a contraband search during a prisonwide lockdown at McNeil Island Correctional Center on McNeil Island, Wash., in November 2008. Washington state officials said Friday that they will close the McNeil Island Corrections Center in April to save money.
(Full-size photo)

State officials said Friday they will close the McNeil Island Corrections Center on April 1, the third Department of Corrections prison to close in the past year as officials grapple with a growing budget deficit.

The McNeil Island prison is the least efficient in the state, in part because it is on an island, Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said.

“This will save the most money without compromising the safety of our staff, the offenders and the public,” he said.

The approximately 500 inmates at the prison near Steilacoom in south Puget Sound will be scattered among the remaining 12 institutions.

McNeil Island is also home to the state’s Special Commitment Center, where sexually violent predators are indefinitely held for treatment after completing their prison sentences. That center is operated by the Department of Social and Health Services and will remain open, prison spokesman Chad Lewis said.

Costs to operate ferries, barges and fireboats to McNeil Island will shift to DSHS, and service will likely be reduced when the prison closes, the Corrections Department said.

On Thursday, state officials learned the budget deficit for the rest of the fiscal year had swelled by an additional $385 million to more than $900 million.

Corrections must reduce spending by nearly $53 million this fiscal year as a result of 6 percent across-the-board cuts due to declining tax revenue. Earlier this week, the agency conducted a one-day lockdown of state prisons as a way to reduce salary costs. Such lockdowns will occur once a month.

This is the third prison the agency, which houses some 16,000 inmates, has closed within a year.

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