Jobs shift as prison unit shuttered

The 35 workers affected will shift to other posts.

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WALLA WALLA -- A medium-security unit in the Washington State Penitentiary's East Complex is being closed to meet reductions in the Department of Corrections budget.

The close of Unit 7 will affect 35 prison staff members but no jobs will be lost, said Department of Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner. The employees, 33 correctional officers, two counselors and a unit manager, will be shifted into other posts at the prison.

The unit currently houses 97 inmates. It is not known at this time where they will be transferred, said Dan Pacholke, DOC's director of prisons.

Warner said the closure is to meet reductions in the department's 2011-2013 budget.

Officials looked at all the state's institutions and the penitentiary's Unit 7 is one of the smaller ones in operation as well as one of the more expensive units to run due to its age, he said.

The unit is one of three medium-security units in the East Complex, also known as the Main Institution. Unit 6 and Unit 8 will remain open.

Each unit has a maximum capacity of 204 beds. Other housing units in the facility are Unit 2, which can hold up to 47 health services beds, and Unit 4, a 100-bed segregation unit.

The East Complex also contains the prison's central kitchen facility, Correctional Industries, engineering department, steam plant, classrooms and training areas and a number of other facilities.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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