Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler is encouraging Department of Corrections employees in the 9th Legislative District to help reform their own agency. Schoesler said more than 300 DOC employees have already responded to an e-mail invitation to share information and their opinions at the www.FixDOC.org website launched by the state Senate last week.
The website, which allows for anonymous reports, represents the latest stage of the Senate’s independent investigation into the DOC-management fiasco that set some 3,700 felons free too early, starting in 2002.
“This is a rare opportunity for DOC employees who see problems but can’t fix them to say something to people on the outside who are in a position to reform the way things get done. I can understand that people may be reluctant to get involved, out of fear of being punished by agency management, but that’s why they have the option to remain anonymous,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville.
“Our Senate majority is united by a shared priority on setting priorities for state government and holding it accountable. The Legislature adjourns in a month; the sooner we get to the bottom of this scandal, the more time the committee which oversees the state corrections system will have to respond to what I am sure will be some revealing information.”
Three prisons are in or near Schoesler’s legislative district: Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Geiger Corrections Center in Spokane County and the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
DOC and Gov. Jay Inslee have blamed the scandal on a computer issue that was discovered in 2012 but not fixed until after the governor publicly acknowledged the problem in late December and announced his own in-house investigation. As majority leader Schoesler recently led the effort to let leaders of the Senate Law and Justice Committee issue subpoenas for documents to aid the Senate investigation.
“The thousands of documents coming in due to the subpoenas will tell part of the story; I hope DOC employees will help shed more light on how this mismanagement was able to continue another three years after the problem was noticed. The fact that we have received hundreds of employee responses in less than a week is a positive sign,” he said.
Schoesler said the surprise Feb. 6 resignation of the secretary of corrections, whose lack of openness helped led to the Senate investigation, will not deter the effort – nor will criticism from the Senate opposition.
“The Legislature defines sentencing ranges for crimes and sets the budgets for prisons. We all should be asking hard questions when felons don’t complete their sentences and innocent Washingtonians die as a result. Also, thousands of dollars invested in a search for more DOC management failures could save millions of dollars in lawsuits associated with yet another scandal,” Schoesler said.