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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."

Washington Corrections Chief Takes Job With Private Prison Company

Washington State Department of Corrections
File photo of a tower at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Washington Secretary of Corrections Bernie Warner is leaving to take a job with a private prison company.

Warner said "there’s no connection" between Tuesday’s announcement and the recent controversy over the transfer of serial killer Gary Ridgway to Colorado. After a hue and cry, Ridgway will be returned to Washington even as Warner prepares to leave.

In fact, Warner said Governor Jay Inslee asked him to stay. Instead, Warner will move to Utah to work for Management and Training Corporation. It’s a private prison contractor with operations in eight states -- none in Washington.

Warner said he’s proud of the legacy he leaves at the Department of Corrections.

“Focusing on programs that change criminal behavior, focusing on re-entry, it’s a difficult transition from prison to the community,” Warner said.

But Warner said the state has challenges ahead. There’s not enough money to offer prison programs to all inmates and the system is on track to be 1,000 beds short by 2020.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."