Washington state to close Larch Corrections Center for the first time since 2011

The Washington Department of Corrections will be closing its Larch Corrections Center in Clark County this fall due to a decreasing prison population, despite criticism from legislators concerned about rising crime rates.
Larch Corrections Center in Clark County. Photo courtesy Washington state Department of Corrections website

The announcement has drawn criticism from legislators as an example of politics triumphing over public safety

TJ Martinell
The Center Square Washington

The Washington Department of Corrections, or DOC, has announced it will be closing its Larch Corrections Center in Clark County this fall.

First opened in 1956, the minimum-security prison has 240 beds for inmates and is staffed by 115 state employees, who will be transferred to other DOC facilities after its closure. It marks the first time since 2011 that the state has closed a prison, the last being McNeil Island Corrections Center.

The closure is part of what DOC says is a response to a decreasing prison population, claiming that only 70% of the beds in the agency’s 12 prisons in the entire state are occupied.

“We already have one of the lowest rates of incarceration in the nation,” DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange said in a statement. “DOC has worked diligently to lower recidivism rates, create better neighbors and ensure that incarcerated individuals don’t return to us once they get out. Of course, our continued success means we can no longer afford to operate all of the prisons we currently have.”

The DOC statement also states that recent legislation classifying illegal possession of drugs as a gross misdemeanor wouldn’t increase demand for prison beds, as DOC inmates are all convicted of felonies.

The announcement has drawn criticism from legislators such as Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, who wrote in a tweet that “while violent crime rates rise all around this state, the WA Dept of Corrections is closing prisons. This is politics triumphing over public safety. And public interest. The people who help keep our communities safe are asking me to be their voice. I will. Larch should stay open.”

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.

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