Washington State Department of Corrections | KNKX

Washington State Department of Corrections

From left to right: Sweetgrass, lavender and lavender starts are seen growing at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla as part of a new Indigenous medicines program through the Department of Corrections, in partnership with the nonprofit Huy.
Courtesy of Huy

A special plot of land has been set aside at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. It is sacred ground that has been blessed by tribal leaders from the community outside. And it’s been devoted to a work program that allows Indigenous inmates to grow medicinal plants needed in traditional ceremonies, such as sweat lodges.

Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

The state is taking steps to reduce Washington's prison population to stop the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a new emergency proclamation and an order commuting the sentences of some nonviolent inmates. 

In this 2014 photo, a correctional officer directs an offender through a gate at the Washington Corrections Center For Women in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

The healing power of nature is well established. People who garden, take frequent hikes or regularly play with a dog or cat experience the benefits firsthand. Time spent with nature is known to improve mental health, increase physical health and reduce stress.

A professor of social work and criminal justice at the University of Washington Tacoma wants to see that knowledge put to work in state prisons, to help them get better results.  

A Washington state prison inmate was accidentally held three-and-a-half years beyond his release date. The error was discovered last month. This follows the mistaken early release of nearly 3,000 Washington inmates over a 13-year period.

In 2014 and 2015, Washington's prison system experienced a spike in inmate suicides. During those two years 11 inmate deaths were ruled suicides, giving Washington one of the highest prison suicide rates in the country. Austin Jenkins has spent the past year investigating how this happened and how the prison system responded.

Washington prison inmates will no longer be called “offenders.” The Secretary of Corrections made that announcement in an all-staff message Tuesday.

WA State Dept. of Corrections

A federal court said it’s OK for Washington state to require that only women be allowed to guard female prisoners in certain situations. Male correctional officers had sued the state saying denying them access to those jobs was a violation of their civil rights.

This story began back in 2007 when women prisoners at Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor and Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair sued the Washington Department of Corrections alleging a pattern of sexual abuse by male correctional officers.