Last summer, Rep. Maureen Walsh was visiting with corrections officials at the Walla Walla Penitentiary, and the issue of uniforms came up.
“They told me the uniforms being produced by Correctional Industries were turning from navy blue to purple in no time, the buttons weren’t sewn on well, and the seams were off,” said Walsh, R-Walla Walla. “The crux of the problem is that the same inmates who they guard are making their uniforms, and I suspect they are not using the care to make these uniforms as these officers deserve.”
So this year, Walsh drafted House Bill 2346 to allow the private sector to make the uniforms. Current state law requires “State agencies, the Legislature, and departments [to] purchase for their use all goods and services…from inmate work programs operated by the Department of Corrections.” Walsh’s proposal would exempt uniforms made for the Department of Corrections.
“The original law had good intentions and this bill in no way is intended to diminish the good work that is being done by Correctional Industries which is to provide skills and work for inmates who are paying their debt to society and provide an economic benefit to the state,” Walsh said. “With the budget cuts that have already occurred and will undoubtedly continue, the morale of our corrections officers is already low. Having poor quality uniforms only adds insult to injury.”
Walsh said she has already heard from one company interested in making the corrections uniforms that already provides uniforms for law enforcement agencies and fire departments.
“Not only can the private sector make these better, they can make them cheaper. This is a simple bill with a lot of common sense,” she said.
The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee. It could come up for public hearing as early as next week.
Contact: Sarah Stewart, Public Information Officer, (360) 786-7720