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MONROE – Rep. Roger Goodman, Chair of the State House Public Safety Committee, joined Director of the Washington State Office of the Corrections Ombuds Joanna Carns today on a fact-finding mission to the Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC) after a disturbance Wednesday night required intervention from local and state police. They were joined by a member of the Governor’s staff, medical experts in infectious disease, and Mike Obenland, MCC’s Superintendent.
“The emergence of COVID-19 in our prison system is causing extreme concern,” said Goodman (D-Kirkland). “After Wednesday night’s disturbance I wanted to learn firsthand about the situation at Monroe and see for myself what measures the Department of Corrections is taking to protect incarcerated individuals and prison staff.”
State and local police ended a tense standoff in the prison’s minimum-security unit Wednesday night after more than 100 incarcerated men concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak at the prison threatened to set fires and take hostages. Currently, seven incarcerated men and five staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at MCC.
Goodman and Carns toured the facility and interviewed corrections officers and incarcerated individuals to get a better idea of what caused the disturbance, and to see what measures the Department of Corrections is taking to ensure use of protective equipment and to test, quarantine and isolate the incarcerated population from the threat of COVID-19.
“Washington’s Department of Corrections is doing all that it can to keep our incarcerated population safe during this unprecedented crisis. Conditions at Monroe and other prisons generally make it impossible to practice social distancing, however,” said Goodman. “The incarcerated individuals I spoke with are afraid for their health and safety. We are now working with the Governor to find ways to keep our incarcerated populations safer, potentially including options to release non-violent incarcerated individuals who are already close to their release date.”
The Office of the Corrections Ombuds was created in 2018 to investigate complaints against the DOC. Carns is its first director, having previously served as executive director of Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee.