PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he is looking at options to reduce prison populations in the state to make more room for isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inslee held a press conference with the head of the state’s Department of Corrections on Thursday afternoon. Steve Sinclair joined Inslee and spoke about protections underway in Washington’s prisons for both inmates and staff.
Inslee said they are looking at options to reduce the population of non-violent offenders.
“We are looking at ways to reduce the number of individuals to free up space that can then be used for the isolation for everyone to reduce the risk of COVID-19. We are looking for reasonable things to do for some non-violent offenders,” he said.
He said an announcement about the efforts would be made in the coming days.
“This is time critical, and we’re acting accordingly,” Inslee said.
Inslee added that there are 85 million pieces of PPE on its way to the state and he is feeling optimistic about protections for frontline workers, including at correctional facilities.
This Inslee-Sinclair press conference comes as other state governors are grappling with early release for low-risk inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.
It also comes a day after more than 100 prisoners at the Monroe Correctional Center outside Seattle demonstrated in the recreation yard and created a disturbance, including threatening to start fires. Prison guards used pepper spray and sting balls to get the coronavirus protest under control.
Officials believe 6 men who tested positive for COVID-19 led to the demonstration. No one was hurt. The ill inmates are in an isolation unit.