The House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee today unanimously passed a measure to allow correctional officers’ uniforms be made by the private sector, rather than inmates.
House Bill 2346, sponsored by Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, would exempt corrections officers’ uniforms from the state requirement for all agencies and the Legislature to purchase all goods and services from inmate work programs operated by the Department of Corrections.
“I’m so pleased the committee acted swiftly to move this proposal forward in the legislative process,” Walsh said. “I believe the testimony was so compelling from officers about the poor quality of their uniforms. They put their lives on the line every day, and they deserve better.”
During the hearing, John Christy, a correctional officer at the Walla Walla Penitentiary brought an example of a uniform made by inmates and worn by officers. He explained that the poor workmanship results in tears, zippers breaking, and pants that are too short.
“I don’t have a gun, baton or Taser. My uniform is one of my more important tools. By having a presence in the offender community, I am able to garner respect because of my uniform,” Christy testified. “I go into combat every day. I need something I can rely on. If I don’t feel comfortable walking around because my uniform doesn’t fit right, I’m already at a disadvantage.”
Other corrections officers from across the state testified about the poor workmanship, lack of mobility, and morale surrounding the uniforms.
Immediately after the testimony, the committee went into an executive session and passed the bill unanimously. It will now be considered for action by the full House of Representatives.
The 60-day regular session is scheduled to adjourn March 8.
Watch the committee hearing on TVW here.
For more information, contact: Sarah Stewart, Public Information Officer, (360) 786-7720
Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, discusses why she sponsored legislation to no longer have correctional officers’ uniforms made by prisoners, Jan. 27. Courtesy House of Representatives.
John Christy, a correctional officer at the Walla Walla Penitentiary, shows committee members one of the uniforms made by inmates for a corrections officer, Jan. 27. Courtesy House of Representatives.