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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

City Councilmembers, Human Rights Commission Express Concerns About Private Prison Contract

Seven Seattle City Council members, the Seattle Human Rights Commission, and over twenty five community organizations recently sent a letter to Secretary Dan Pacholke of the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and Gov. Jay Inslee regarding a contract between the DOC and  a private prison company.

The letter — signed by Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell, Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien, Tom Rasmussen, and Kshama Sawant —  expresses concern that the DOC signed a contract with Geo Group Inc., a private prison company, to potentially send up to 1,000 Washington-based prisoners to a Geo Group prison in Michigan, should Washington’s prisons become overcrowded. According to the letter, the contract was signed despite Geo Group Inc.’s long and documented record of mistreating prisoners, which rises to the level of international human rights violations. The letter also expresses concern that all alternatives to address Washington State’s impending prison overcrowding situation had not been exhausted prior to entering into the contract, and that human rights violations within private prison facilities disproportionately impact communities of color.

The letter calls on the DOC to address the root causes of the overcrowding problem in Washington State prisons. According to councilmembers, doing so requires a focus on eliminating racial inequities in the criminal justice system.

The letter also calls on DOC to assure that policies are aligned with the mission that those who serve prison time for wrongdoing have the greatest chance to be restored as full, productive members of our communities, and that the State of Washington eliminate contracts with private prison corporations and institutions that violate human rights.

The letter was originally addressed to former DOC Secretary Bernard Warner, who resigned from the Department of Corrections in September and accepted a position with a private prison operator.

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