18th District lawmakers fight to keep Larch Corrections Center from governor’s chopping block

'Let's go into this with full information, not blindly or with political motivation,' says Orcutt

 

Calling it “penny-wise and pound-foolish,” 18th District lawmakers today expressed frustration over what they view as a politically motivated and uninformed decision to close Larch Corrections Center.

Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said that an independent report on the closure of state facilities found that a full closure of Larch was not feasible.

“An independent study is supposed to take the politics out of the equation and insert factual data so that an informed decision can be made,” Zarelli said.  “Unfortunately, the report is being ignored, politics seems to be playing a prominent role and local jobs will be lost unnecessarily.”

“I believe state government needs to consolidate in order save money,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama.  “But that consolidation has to create actual savings, not just perceived savings.  Or, as is possible with the Larch closing, an actual increase in overall costs.”

Orcutt and Zarelli joined with seatmate, Rep. Jaime Herrera, R-Camas, in sending a letter of concern explaining the necessity of keeping Larch at least partially open to  Gov. Gregoire ten days ago.   As of yet, there has been no response from the governor's office.

“In our letter, we talked about the independent study and the fact that the costs to the Department of Natural Resources for fire suppression will go up dramatically without the use of inmate labor,” Herrera said.  “Recidivism rates at Larch are also lower than other facilities.  By transferring inmates, we're going to be increasing the long-term costs to the Department of Corrections.

“This is the type of action that continues to perpetuate a level of mistrust between citizens and government,” said Herrera.  “All relevant indicators point in one direction, and yet the government turns around and goes the opposite way.  It's not right.”

A second letter was sent to the governor's office today.  The new letter includes all three 18th District legislators as well as all legislators from the 15th, 17th, and 49th Districts.

In the new letter, legislators ask the governor to consider the additional long-term costs associated with closing Larch.  At a minimum, legislators want the consultant's recommendation for a partial closure to be considered.

The joint letter also questions the wisdom of closing a facility that would result in 114 job losses in Clark County, which has the state's highest unemployment rate at 14.3 percent.  It also sheds light onto the curious change in the supposed timeline for Larch's closure:

'We cannot help but suspect that the motivation for this push to implement the closure plan is to render useless our efforts to keep Larch open and that if the majority of inmates are moved and a large number of staff are transferred to other institutions it would be too costly to undo these changes.'

“I'm very concerned that while the governor is expediting the timeline for closure, she's delaying us from receiving critical information about the feasibility and long-term costs associated with full closure,” Orcutt said.  “It seems the harder we push for accurate information, the more the timeline gets moved forward.  Let's go into this with full information, not blindly or with political motivation.  We want full disclosure – not full closure.”

First Larch letter to governor

Second Larch letter to governor

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Larch for NR 2

PHOTO CUTLINE: Rep. Jaime Herrera, Rep. Ed Orcutt and Sen. Joe Zarelli meet today with staff from Larch Corrections Center.

 

For more information, or to set up an interview with Rep. Ed Orcutt, contact: Brendon Wold, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7698

For Rep. Jaime Herrera, contact John Handy, Deputy Communications Director: (360) 786-5758

For Sen. Joe Zarelli, contact Eric Campbell, Senior Information Officer, (360) 786-7503

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov