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Crime, Law and Justice
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Inslee Launches Review Of Prison Population Growth

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Austin Jenkins
/
Northwest News Network

Washington state’s prison system is projected to need 1,000 new beds by 2018. And that growth has Governor Jay Inslee concerned.

The Democrat Tuesday announced a Department of Justice-backed review of the state’s criminal justice system. The goal is to look for ways to save money without jeopardizing public safety.

In Washington, crime and arrests are down. Still as the state grows, so does the prison population. Already the system is running 2 percent over capacity. To keep up with the growth, Washington has been looking to build a new prison. But what if there was a way to reduce the need for prison beds without releasing people who could be dangerous?

Inslee has appointed a 21 member taskforce to examine Washington’s sentencing system and look for ways to keep people from going back to prison again and again.

“So before we consider investing in a new prison, it really is important for us to take a look at this opportunity to see what smart, common-sense, data-driven, cost-benefit, evaluated efforts we can undergo here,” Inslee said.

Inslee said everything is worth considering from prepping inmates better for release to the early release of aging inmates.

Washington is one of four states participating this year in the national Justice Reinvestment project. That means the state will get funding and support from the U.S. Department of Justice and The Pew Charitable Trusts.