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New WA Program Offers Community College, Tech Programs to Prison Inmates

Junior college programs to be offered to prison inmates in WA (Columbia Basin College)
Junior college programs to be offered to prison inmates in WA (Columbia Basin College)

Washington State’s 12 prisons already provide literacy and educational programs for inmates, allowing them to better their communication and comprehension skills. But now a new bi-partisan plan passed by the legislature will allow them to pursue actual job skills prior to being released.

The State House approved their version of Senate Bill 5069, which will expand community college and tech school programs that will be offered in the prisons. Inmates will be able to pursue basic educational degrees that will allow them to pursue higher level jobs when they are released.

According to Erik Smith, communications director for Senator Maureen Walsh of the 16th Legislative District (Walla Walla) inmates who are doing life sentences or on death row will not be eligible.

According to Walsh and the other 7 Senators who co-sponsored the bill, numerous studies show inmates (those who are not considered extremely high-risk reoffenders) have a far better success rate when they are equipped with educational training upon release.  Giving the inmates clear opportunities to pursue meaningful jobs and employment far reduces the rate of them re-offending.

Smith says the plan does cost the state additional funding, but officials believe those costs will be offset because these inmates won’t end up back behind bars, costing the state even more money than the educational programs themselves.

The bill will create new partnerships between the state’s community college and tech schools and the Department of Corrections.

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