Correctional Industries provides jobs and skills training for inmates at the correctional facilities administered by the Department of Corrections. These jobs provide employment and a modest income for the inmates, a skill that is transferable when seeking employment once released, and provides a savings to the taxpayers in the products they produce.
I served as the general manager for CI at the Washington State Penitentiary until budget cuts resulted in the loss of my job back in 2010, so I am familiar with the local operations.
I question, then, why CI is closing the garment and sign shops at the penitentiary. This action will eliminate not only the state employees' jobs of managing these shops, but the inmates jobs as well. The sign shop makes signs for a wide range of state agencies such as the Department of Transportation, cities, counties and even federal agencies, at a tremendous savings to the taxpayers.
It becomes even more curious when you consider the fact that CI has contractual obligations with their customers that it apparently is ready and willing to breach, thus increasing the cost to taxpayers.
This should be looked into by the legislative oversight committees in both the House and Senate to thoroughly examine the actions being instituted by CI. I know that we are in hard economic times and that the state is experiencing some severe budgetary cuts.
However, to cut an enterprise that makes money for the state, and that is contractually obligated to proved a product to its customers, needs, in my opinion, a close examination. If budgetary cuts are under consideration by CI, it might take a close look at its four top administrators, who are paid over a $100,000 each. I would think that by reducing the number of production shops they are responsible for "managing," we might be able to get by with fewer administrator -- or is that unreasonable?
I wrote to Reps. Walsh and Nealey as well as Sen. Hewitt several weeks ago about this issue. The only one to respond was Rep. Walsh. I am surprised the other two have not responded since this affects jobs in their respective districts.
This is, however, an election year, so maybe they have more important agenda items to take care of than securing jobs for their constituents and saving taxpayers money. So I appreciate Rep. Walsh for at least taking this matter under consideration and we'll have to wait an see how this finally unravels.
Dain C. Nysoe