Tag Archives: Special Commitment Center

Maybe putting sex offenders on an island wasn’t such a good idea

The Tacoma News Tribune reported Sunday that some state lawmakers are hoping to move the state’s center for sexually violent predators off McNeil Island in South Puget Sound.

The move could save the state some $6.6 million a year. The problem with moving it: would you want to live next door to such a place?

The center, which the Kitsap Sun devoted a special report to in December 2010, was a bit cheaper to run when the state Department of Corrections ran a prison on the island, and could save money by having inmates work aboard the ferries and other core island tasks. But now that corrections is gone, the Special Commitment Center, home to nearly 300 people deemed sexually violent, is even more expensive.

The SCC houses those who’ve done their prison time but have been determined by a jury to be too dangerous to release until they can be treated.

I ask you, dear readers: Is it worth saving the money to move this facility?

McNeil Island Prison — Washington’s Alcatraz — To Close

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It appears to be the end of the road —or rather a ferry route — for a prison older than Washington state itself.

Indeed, our very own Alcatraz.

McNeil Island Corrections Center, home to about 500 inmates and a place where 245 DOC employees work, is closing after 135 years of protecting the public and punishing and rehabilitating felons.

It’s uncertain what this will mean for the Special Commitment Center, also housed on the island for sexually violent predators and run by the state’s Department of Social and Health Services. But DOC stands to save about $6.3 million a year, according to a press release.

“This will save the most money without compromising the safety of our staff, the offenders and the public,” DOC Secretary Eldon Vail said in the release. “The budget crisis is causing us to make some of the most painful decisions in our agency’s history.”

Here’s what I wrote about McNeil in an entry last year:

The territorial prison there got its first prisoners — two men who’d sold booze to Native Americans and one who’d robbed a fort store — in 1875, according to HistoryLink. When I visited the place last spring, the man who provided escort for me on the ferry ride told me an interesting fact. It wasn’t built for Alcatraz-like security reasons (i.e. its icy cold water surroundings) but rather because that’s just the way everyone commuted back then.

This prison’s older than the state itself, also giving it the unique distinction of being the only prison that started as a territorial facility, which then became a federal pen in 1890, and then a state prison in 1981. It was supposed to be temporary to run it to allieve overcrowding, but now almost 28 years later, it’s still going.

It’s expensive, as you might imagine, to haul inmates — and all the things that go to incarcerate them — on a ferry. That’s the likely reason for its possible closure.

If they do close it, perhaps the state could open it up to tourists — just like Alcatraz — and house a museum there.