Rep. Cheney critical of DOC’s decision to close Larch Corrections Center

‘I question the timing and reasoning,’ says Cheney

The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) recently announced its intentions to close Southwest Washington’s Larch Corrections Center (LCC).

State Rep. Greg Cheney, R-Battle Ground, calls this decision “surprising and shortsighted,” and said it will leave the state shorthanded when fighting wildfires. He also questioned the timing of DOC’s announcement.

“We just finished a 105-day legislative session and a special session where public safety was the number one issue,” said Cheney. “There was ample time for DOC to give legislators a detailed briefing and receive public testimony from the community, the employees, and the businesses that will be impacted by this decision. We never got that. It does make me wonder if the leadership at DOC was specifically waiting for the end of the legislative session to make this announcement knowing that legislative input and oversight would be hampered. The timing is very suspect.”

Cheney also noted that LCC is Southwest Washington’s only facility to house and train inmates to assist the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in fighting wildfires around the state.

“The announcement by DOC is demoralizing to firefighting crews at the very height of wildfire season,” said Cheney. “Inmates from the corrections center in Larch have had a proud and storied history of fighting wildfires around the state. This training and experience has led to real-world skills resulting in jobs for inmates once they’ve paid their debt to society. How will this be replaced? Are we leaving holes in our future wildfire fighting capabilities? Will there be other significant training options that can lead to careers after leaving DOC confinement? A detailed briefing to legislators may have answered some of these questions and allowed community feedback. Again, that never happened.”

The location of LCC also allows inmates to be close to family and local support networks in Southwest Washington, noted Cheney. This makes a successful reentry back into their communities once they’ve served out their sentences more likely.

“Moving inmates to other DOC facilities has the detrimental effect of taking them away from the support of local friends and families,” said Cheney. “A good support network is crucial to reentering society after serving out sentences. Again, DOC has no plan to rectify this. As a result, we can expect recidivism to rise and our local communities to bear the brunt of DOC’s shortsighted actions.

“In the end, I question the timing and the reasoning of DOC’s decision to close Larch Corrections Center, as well as the potential impacts to our local communities and inmates,” said Cheney. “The leadership at DOC needs to be held accountable for this surprising and shortsighted decision.”


Washington State House Republican Communications