30 August 2007

From a Distance

I'm on vacation and away from prison this week. I still have access to my work email, and to voicemail. I've resisted checking on the voicemail. I'll be back on Sunday and able to call people then. But email? It's hard to resist.

The administration puts out a daily bulletin, so I can keep track of what's being offered in the staff dining room (baked chicken today) and how many inmates are housed at the facility. That number is 1600 something today. And there was a short note about how well one of the units had packed up some inmates and shipped them out of state.

That was tough to see.

Because Washington state prisons are overcrowded, we farm out close to 1000 inmates to Minnesota and Arizona. Some don't mind a change of scenery and volunteer to go, but those are the rare cases.

The out of state prisons don't want any behavior problems, so it's well-behaved offenders who often go; they are the good workers, the ones who get family visits, ones working hard to make a difference and change their lives. Ouch.

Every now and then, I get a letter from someone who has been sent out of state. There are no programs to do, no work to be had, it's very cold in Minnesota in the winter and frying hot in Arizona in the summer. For men who were immersed in good programs, to sit and do nothing is a waste of their time and our tax dollars.

I have a fantasy of going on the road to visit the WA inmates in their out of state prisons. I could spend a couple of days, do some spiritual counseling, maybe have a worship service or two. I wonder if the state would pay for that. Probably not.

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