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Saturday, January 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Legislature Oks Limiting Inmate Perks

By Associated Press

The Senate on Monday sent the governor a measure to make prison inmates work or go to school in exchange for privileges such as weight-lifting, television and conjugal visits.

“This bill means that prisoners can’t decide to take a vacation in prison and then expect to go out and get privileges. This bill is meant to bring the real world to our prison inmates,” said Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.

The measure is expected to win Gov. Mike Lowry’s signature, said Lowry’s press aide, Jordan Dey. The bill passed 45-0 after clearing the House unanimously last week.

The bill, HB2010, was softened during negotiations between the House and Senate. Initially, it simply would have required the state’s 11,000 inmates to work or go to school.

But the state would have had to spend millions of dollars providing jobs and schools if all inmates took part.

As it is, the measure is expected to cost about $1 million over the next two years, and even then there is no certainty that the 13 prison complexes will have the ability to meet increased inmate demand for schooling or work, sponsors concede.

Here are the main elements of the bill:

Privileges such as TV, weight-lifting and extended family visits would be withheld if inmates refused to work in prison jobs or attend classes to learn the three Rs.

For the first time, inmates must help cover the cost of doctor visits - $3 for every visit. While the amount seems small, lawmakers contend it still can be expected to cut down on unnecessary visits to prison clinics. Inmates deemed “indigent” would not have to pay.

The Department of Corrections must set new limits on inmate possession of obscene, sexually explicit or violent material.

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