Washington’s civil-commitment program for violent sex offenders could be moved to the McNeil Island Corrections Center from Monroe, state officials say.
“It has the capacity,” Mark Seling, director of the Monroe center, said Monday at a court hearing before U.S. District Judge William Dwyer.
In addition to top-notch security and the safety net of the surrounding Puget Sound, Seling said, the McNeil Island prison has decent resident rooms, as well as good proximity to Western State Hospital and teachers at Pierce Community College.
Dwyer had issued a court injunction to the Monroe center to improve conditions in a number of areas, from mental health treatment to its living quarters.
In addition to moving the program to McNeil Island, another option being considered is acquiring more space from the state Department of Corrections to expand the Monroe location which, by all accounts, is cramped and inadequate.
Department spokesman Veltry Johnson said no final choice had been made.
“There is a discussion and review of several options, inclusive of McNeil, but no decision yet,” Johnson said. He could not say when such a decision would be reached.
Janice Marques, a court-appointed consultant to Dwyer, is overseeing improvements at the center.
The Monroe facility “is a cramped and extremely restrictive environment” and must be improved, Marques wrote in a report before Monday’s hearing.
It currently houses 48 men and one woman either classified as sexually violent predators by a jury or judge, or awaiting civil trial to determine if they fit that legal definition.
State law allows the commitment of people found to be violent sex offenders to the Monroe program indefinitely, after they serve their criminal sentences. A similar Kansas law was upheld by U.S. Supreme Court in June.
The space is insufficient to accommodate therapy, meetings and recreation, limiting the activities that residents can attend, Marques wrote.
She added that authorities charged with finding a permanent home for the center have taken far too long.
Seling testified that the lack of a permanent site for the center means he cannot recruit and hire additional permanent staff, impeding his efforts to improve the program.
Monday’s hearing was the first Steilacoom officials had heard of the proposal.
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