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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 16 October 2009

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) -- A new draft report recommends either closing the old buildings at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla or downsizing a facility on McNeil Island to a minimum-security prison.
The Legislature directed the state Office of Financial Management to contract with a consultant to provide recommendations for eliminating 1,580 beds in the state's prisons to cut costs. The consultant delivered the draft report Wednesday.
One proposal calls for the closure of the old, main institution in Walla Walla, not including any of its additions; the Ahtanum View Corrections Center in Yakima; and half of the Larch Corrections Center in Yacolt, 20 miles northeast of Vancouver. The option would result in 1,653 fewer prison beds.
Under a second proposal, the McNeil Island facility would become a minimum-security prison, and the Yakima and Yacolt facilities would both be closed, resulting in 1,618 fewer beds.
Maria Peterson, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, said the agency wouldn't comment on the report because it has not been finalized.
Peterson did not have a breakdown on the number of inmates or employees in the old, main section of the state penitentiary. McNeil Island currently has 1,290 offenders in maximum, medium and minimum security and has 576 full-time employees.
Ahtanum View in Yakima houses about 130 offenders in minimum security. Most are elderly, have medical conditions or are disabled. The prison has the equivalent of about 83 full-time employees.
The Yacolt facility houses about 400 minimum-security offenders and has the equivalent of 110 full-time employees.
The report also recommended closing Maple Lane School for juvenile offenders in Rochester, leaving 235 fewer beds, and closing a number of residential rehabilitation centers for people with developmental disabilities around the state.
A final report is expected in November. Then it will be up to Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature to determine where budget cuts should be made.

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