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Senator says vaccine mandate creates more problems for DOC

Offenders queue up to receive mail in a residence hall at Stafford Creek. As the stateÕs third largest agency, the Department of Corrections houses, feeds, clothes and provides programs for more than 16,000 inmates in 15 prisons.

Olympia, WA – Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, says Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate will only create a greater public safety risk.

The mandate, which took effect Oct. 18, requires all employees in agencies under the governor’s control to receive vaccinations for COVID-19 or be terminated from their jobs.

Wagoner noted that the Washington state Department of Corrections was already understaffed before the pandemic began and the governor’s mandate only makes the problem worse.

“Many inmates are unable to participate in rehabilitation programs because our correctional facilities don’t currently have enough staff to implement them,” said Wagoner. “This is a huge detriment to the rehabilitative process. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure the well-being of individuals in our correctional facilities, and this mandate severely inhibits that. It’s an unhealthy and unsafe environment for both the incarcerated and our correctional staff.”

Additionally, Inslee issued Proclamation 20-80.1, which temporarily stops the transfer of incarcerated individuals from jails to the DOC facilities, claiming it will stop the spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 cases in our prisons are relatively few, especially compared to December 2020,” said Wagoner. “It is my opinion that the governor halted these transfers due to the lack of personnel, a situation partly of his own making. We were already in a bad spot due to the legislative underfunding of the system by approximately $90 million. A poor decision to terminate dedicated professionals makes things worse”

DOC could potentially lose 1,025 employees due to lack of compliance of the COVID-19 mandate, representing 11.7 percent of its workforce.


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