State Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, is pushing back on a proposal to prematurely release nearly 1,000 inmates from state prisons due to the COVID-19 virus.
Gov. Jay Inslee and state Department of Corrections officials devised the plan after the state Supreme Court ordered action to prevent outbreaks of the virus among those in state custody. However, Muzzall points out that the high court did not specify or mandate such an extreme action, which he believes would endanger communities and inmates alike.
“I’ve had some reservations about decisions the governor has made responding to various aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak, but this move is just foolish,” Muzzall said. “I believe the state has options for limiting the exposure for those incarcerated that stops far short of releasing them before they’ve served their debt to society.”
While plans for the release are still being developed, Muzzall said there are considerations that need to be addressed by the administration.
“We need to ensure that victims of crimes are notified that their perpetrators are being released in a timely manner. We owe that to them,” Muzzall said. “I honestly don’t think this move is fair or compassionate to anyone. We are setting these folks up for failure. They won’t have the support network. They aren’t getting housing, or jobs, or medical care. In reality, there is a higher likelihood of them contracting COVID-19 outside than in state custody.”
Muzzall is demanding that the state ensure a responsible plan is adopted prior to any premature release of inmates, but is also urging the governor to reconsider the release altogether.
“The Supreme Court did not order him to do this. It’s an extreme response that just doesn’t make sense,” said Muzzall. “We have resources and ways to do what the court is asking without putting our communities at further risk.”