Prison workers protest cuts in budget

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Corrections officers from Walla Walla were among a crowd of Teamster members who rallied in Olympia on Thursday to protest budget cuts they say are endangering their lives.

The Washington State Penitentiary workers joined other prison employees from Monroe, the Tri-Cities, Clallam Bay and other cities for a noon rally at Sylvester Park as well as meeting with legislators.

They presented the governor with a list of proposed cost-saving measures they said the state can implement at the Department of Corrections without compromising safety, union spokesman David White said in a release.

Among the speakers was Correctional Officer Matt Johnson, who worked for two years as a kitchen sergeant at the penitentiary. Johnson said he is concerned about the state's plans to remove officers from prison kitchens. "With no officers in the kitchen, we will not be able to effectively supervise the inmates or ensure the safety of non-custody staff."

In addition to the elimination of officers in prison kitchens, the reductions at DOC include monthly "modified" lockdowns for offenders, the elimination of counseling services for staff, the reduction of recreational programming for offenders, and the reduction of drug counseling programs for offenders.

The state also plans to close the McNeil Island Corrections Center effective April 1, 2011.

In the release, White said the union has filed a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief in King County Superior Court in an effort to halt the state from implementing provisions of its budget reductions. A hearing for a motion for preliminary injunction is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.

Teamsters Local 117 represents more than 6,000 correctional workers throughout the state, White said.

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