Advocates urge Governor to release susceptible prisoners over COVID-19 concerns

OLYMPIA, Wash. –  Another population potentially at risk of COVID-19 are those serving time in our state’s prison system.

A coalition of advocates have asked Gov. Jay Inslee to do more to make sure those people are safe, including releasing some inmates early.

Already one corrections officer working at a prison facility in Monroe tested positive for the virus. The state Department of Corrections says it’s taking precautions to protect other officers and inmates who may have been in contact, but advocates say the state must do more.

“People are living in close proximity to each other,” said Nick Straley with Columbia Legal Services. “We need to get people out of the prisons to get everyone safe.”

Straley says more than 1,900 people over the age of 56 with serious medical issues are currently behind bars and should be released in case coronavirus infiltrates prisons.

Also, says Straley, everyone else currently incarcerated who would under normal circumstances be released in the next six months should be let out now to access the care they need.

“Unfortunately, this illness is going to affect all of us,” he said. “If there’s illness in jails, that will spread. Even if we can stamp it out on the outside, it will continue to affect all of us. No matter how you feel about this it has an impact on your life.”

Corrections officials say so far no inmates have tested positive for the disease.

Inslee’s press team told Q13 News a lot of things are on the table concerning what happens next and promises the governor will give the issue due consideration.