The language of the original bill prohibited privately-owned detainment facilities from being contracted by local, state, or federal government entities, but a last-second amendment was adopted to substantially narrow the focus of the legislation. File photo

The language of the original bill prohibited privately-owned detainment facilities from being contracted by local, state, or federal government entities, but a last-second amendment was adopted to substantially narrow the focus of the legislation. File photo

Lawmakers flinch on banning for-profit detention facilities

Last minute amendment exempted ICE detainment facility.

By Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service

Washington lawmakers elected to prohibit the transfer of inmates to out-of-state private prisons, except for specific reasons, after the Senate voted 30 to 18 in favor of Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6442.

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6442, said the bill is intended to help end the growth of an industry in which private entities profit from prolific incarceration.

The language of the original bill prohibited privately-owned detainment facilities from being contracted by local, state, or federal government entities, but a last-second amendment was proposed by Saldaña and adopted to substantially narrow the focus of the legislation. The original language of the bill likely would have had an impact on the ICE detainment facility in Tacoma.

Hannah Woerner, an attorney with Columbia Legal Services, testified to the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee in favor of the original bill. Woerner claimed privately-run prisons are more violent and less sanitary than public facilities, in part because they cut down on guards and medical staff in order to maximize profits. Woerner said private prisons are also more prone to deliver delayed medical care to inmates in need.

“Private prisons experience more incidents of violence than public prisons, and they have been shown to lead to increased recidivism,” Saldaña said. “The detention and confinement of individuals carries great responsibility, and these functions must not be motivated by private profits.”

The companion bill to this legislation, House Bill 2576, passed 60 to 38 on Feb. 17.

The companion bill directs the Department of Health to evaluate state and local practices for inspecting private detention facilities and enforcing policies on the health, safety and welfare of detainees. The results of the study could urge lawmakers toward the prohibition of private detention facilities in the future.

“There is an inherent injustice in making money from those who are incarcerated,” said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, prime sponsor of the companion bill in the House. “It is a violation of human rights and is contrary to our democratic values.”

One of the versions of the legislation, or a merged version of the two, could be signed into law by the governor this session.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

A King County Sheriff’s Office photo of the crawlspace in which Urbano Velazquez was hiding when a K-9 unit was used. Sound Publishing file photo
King County settles $2 million dog bite lawsuit

The county agreed to pay $100,000 after being sued after a 2016 K-9 unit arrest.

Contributed by the Society for Conservation Biology 
A map showing the locations where plants have gone extinct in the U.S. and Canada since European settlers arrived.
Study: 65 plant species have gone extinct in U.S., Canada

More than 65 species of plants have gone extinct in the U.S.… Continue reading

Photo courtesy city of Kirkland
Dangerous intersection at Kirkland/Kenmore border to be converted to four-way stop

The signs will be in place this December, with re-striping expected for the spring

File photo
Snow Lake, located near Snoqualmie Pass in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Washington releases new forest plan

It outlines ways the state will protect and maintain forest health.

Sage Viniconis is a career performing artist in King County who’s been out of work and seeking creative outlets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo/Sage Viniconis
Puget Sound artists adapt creativity, and business sense, to pandemic

Artists Sunday is an online directory that connects artists across the county, state and nation.

Chris Fagan trekking across Antarctica in 2014. Contributed by Chris Fagan
South Pole or Bust

The story of a North Bend couple who trekked across Antarctica.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Relative of Amazon employee used insider info to trade $1.4 million in stocks

The Bothell man pleaded guilty Nov. 5 for securities fraud

Jay Inslee (D), left, and Loren Culp (R). File photo
Gov. Inslee surges to big lead as he nears rare third term

Statewide office roundup: Schools chief Reykdal in close contest; Secretary of State Wyman fends off challenge.

Screenshot
Sex education bill Referendum 90 is passing

It will decide whether Senate Bill 5395 will be enacted into law.

Exterior building and signage view from 9th Avenue of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA.
Voters approve $1.74 billion bond for Harborview Medical Center

King County voters are saying yes to upgrades at Harborview Medical Center.… Continue reading

Screenshot
All King County charter amendments are passing

Voters are approving an appointed sheriff along with other measures.

Map of 45th Legislative District.
Election Day results in for 45th Legislative District

Goodman and Springer lead in early results for 45th Legislative District