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Clark County legislators: Keep Larch Correctional Center open

VANCOUVER, Wash. (Aug. 17, 2023) — Lawmakers representing Clark County districts in the Washington State Legislature have joined organized labor, multiple local governments, and community leaders in urging Gov. Jay Inslee and the Department of Corrections (DOC) to keep the Larch Correctional Center from closure. The facility serves the Southwest Washington region providing middle-class, family sustaining jobs and myriad training opportunities for incarcerated individuals.

“Closing Larch Correctional Center would be a detriment to the Southwest Washington community,” said Rep. Sharon Wylie (D-Vancouver). “Not only would we lose jobs, but our community would become less safe. Allowing these individuals to serve their sentence close to home keeps visitations regular. It also grants opportunities for returning individuals to utilize their new skills in the workforce with a strong support system upon release. Both are key to reducing recidivism. This decision would reverse so much progress we’ve made regarding criminal justice reform.”

In addition to Wylie, the letter to Inslee and DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange opposing Larch’s closure was signed by the entire delegations of the 49th, 18th and 17th Legislative Districts representing Southwest Washington: Reps. Monica Stonier, Greg Cheney, Stephanie McClintock, Paul Harris and Linda Wilson, and Sens. Annette Cleveland, Ann Rivers and Kevin Waters.

In July, delegates representing unions from across the state approved a resolution opposing Larch’s closure at the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO convention. The Clark County Council, Battle Ground City Council and other community leaders have also urged the state to keep the facility open.

TAKE A STAND — Please send a message to Olympia and the DOC: Keep Larch open! Keep local communities together! Also, Teamsters who provide services at Larch have set up an online petition at calling on the DOC to keep Larch open. Please sign it to keep Larch open!

Two notable career trainings available at Larch also provide invaluable services to the community. Through a partnership with the Department of Natural Resources inmates can serve as wildland firefighters or on conservation work crews. Both have been essential in regional stream restoration projects and helping to mitigate increasingly dangerous wildfires.

“We can’t afford to lose these workers,” said Wylie. “While they’re taking the opportunity to gain job training, they’re keeping us safe and maintaining our quality of life.”

Here is the full text of the legislators’ Aug. 8 letter:

Governor Jay Inslee
Secretary Cheryl Strange, WA St Department of Corrections

We, the undersigned members of the Clark County Delegation, are writing to express our strong opposition to the planned closure of Larch Correctional Center (LCC) in October 2023 by the Department of Corrections (DOC).

LCC plays a crucial role in our community by providing family wage jobs and valuable rehabilitation training opportunities for incarcerated individuals. The dedicated forest firefighting crews and inmate work crews at Larch have been instrumental in saving the state millions of dollars through forest and stream restoration efforts. 

The closure would impede positive relationships and hinder efforts to reduce recidivism since access to visitation is crucial for incarcerated individuals. LCC is the only DOC facility in Southwest Washington, allowing most incarcerated individuals to have family nearby. Closing LCC would result in sending them to facilities much further away, reducing their visitation rates and weakening community ties. 

Larch plays an essential role in transitioning incarcerated individuals by providing mental health services and addiction treatment, reflecting our commitment to community-level care. Moving towards warehousing individuals would be a step backward and compromise safety.  The unique opportunities and personal guidance offered at LCC are challenging to replicate in larger facilities, making it an essential rehabilitation center for the DOC.

Additionally, the relationship between LCC and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is vital. Incarcerated individuals working on DNR crews receive invaluable character development and self-worth, helping fight forest wildfires and safeguarding nearby communities. While other camps have some DNR crew relationship, they lack the same level of medical care and are located in the NW region of the state, making Larch’s presence in SW Washington even more crucial.

In light of these concerns, we urge you to reconsider the decision to close Larch Correctional Center (LCC) and work towards preserving its invaluable contributions to our community and the state at large.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

PREVIOUSLY at The Stand:

Urge state Dept. of Corrections to keep Larch facility open (July 14)
Larch is a shining success. Don’t close it. (by John Scearcy, July 26)

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