Alarm bells still ringing at Department of Corrections

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106 Newhouse Building ● P.O. Box 40404 ● Olympia WA 98504-0404

Report from Olympia |  September 22, 2021

Alarm bells still ringing at DOC


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

More than five years ago I stood at a podium before a room full of reporters to announce the findings of a detailed Senate investigation into systematic failures at the Department of Corrections, and what could be done to fix them. Five years is a long time. In 2016, the president was Barack Obama, and the media assured us that Hillary Clinton was a lock to be his successor. A Republican-led coalition was in its fourth year of leading the state Senate, with a list of accomplishments that already included reducing the tax burden, improving public safety and making college more affordable.

DOC Report Cover

A lot can change in 5 years, but apparently not as much as we had hoped for at DOC. As if this year’s Democrat-approved new restrictions on law enforcement weren’t enough, a similarly partisan effort to empty prison cells and return convicted felons to the street is creating new public-safety risks across the state.

That’s the conclusion of a Senate report I, along with two of my Senate Republican colleagues, released last week about new challenges for the state Department of Corrections. The report, “Prison Alarm Bells: Five Years of Failure at the Department of Corrections – and What Washington Can Do About It,” calls attention to the lessons that clearly were not learned following the worst state-government management debacle in recent memory: the accidental release of some 3,000 convicts before their sentences expired.

Five years after that debacle, the premature release of felons has become a matter of official state policy.

We released the report last week at an online news conference, which can be viewed by clicking here. You can see some of the coverage of our report, along with other interesting updates, below.


With the temperatures cooling and kids now back in school, it won’t be long before lawmakers return to Olympia. Now is the time for us to prepare for the legislative session that starts in January. To that end, it is really important that I hear from you. What are your priorities for the new session? Businesses are having a difficult time hiring workers for good-paying jobs. Crime, regulations, the governor’s mandates and transportation issues will be discussed and perhaps acted upon!

I am here to be your voice on these matters, and to do so effectively, I need to hear directly from you. Please feel free to call, write or e-mail with your concerns and ideas for better government.

It is an honor to serve as your state senator. 

Best Regards,

Senator Mike Padden


Three of four proposed redistricting plans eliminate Newman Lake, Green Bluff and Mt. Spokane area from the 4th District!

Members of the public are encouraged to share their comments with the commission


On Tuesday, members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission released their initial draft plans as part of the state's once-per-decade redistricting effort. The Senate Republican-appointed commissioner’s map of 49 legislative districts focuses on keeping communities together and fostering competitive elections, but the other three proposals actually remove parts of the northern portions of the 4th District, including the communities of Newman Lake, Green Bluff and Mt. Spokane area. You can see all 4 plans by clicking here.

The Redistricting Commission, created by voters through an amendment to Washington’s constitution, comprises two Republican and two Democrat voting members appointed by the legislative caucuses, with a non-voting chair. Each voting commissioner is responsible for producing proposals for congressional and state legislative electoral maps. A final set of maps approved by the commission is due to legislators Nov. 15.

Members of the public are encouraged to submit their own proposals using the commission's online mapping tool.

You can also voice your concerns and views on the proposed changes to our district by attending a public outreach meeting. The next statewide public outreach meeting regarding the proposed state legislative maps will be on October 5, from 7-10 pm. You can register to speak by clicking here. Make your voice heard!

Video Update:

KIRO News: Republicans respond to prison budget

KIRO Video

Click on the image above to watch KIRO-TV’s coverage of our report on public safety.

In the News:

State GOP senators sound alarm on ongoing effort to cut prison population

By Hanna Scott, | September 17, 2021

My Northwest

Airway Heights Corrections Center. (Photo courtesy of Department of Corrections Washington State)

The effort by Washington Democratic lawmakers to empty prison cells and return convicted felons to the street is creating new public safety risks across the state. Or at least that’s the conclusion reached by state Senate Republicans in a new 40-page report released this week.

… “Right now, everyone is hearing about the problems that have been created for law enforcement by the new police restrictions passed by the Legislature this year, but that’s just the beginning of the story,” said Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley), the ranking Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Click here to read more.

Senators want prison closures, early release halted

Push to get people out of prisons will result in more crime and less public safety

By Jerry Cornfield, Everett Herald | September 19, 2021

A trio of Republican state senators is warning that Democrat-driven initiatives to empty prison cells and increase the number of convicted felons given early release are creating new public safety risks across the state.

… Those efforts — one from a budget decision and the other by a new law — are accelerating an already declining prison population since the start of the pandemic that has led to the fewest people locked up in state correctional facilities in recent memory. Overall, in August, 30% of the state’s nearly 17,000 prison beds were empty, a figure which could be closer to 40% in two years if closures and expansion are fully carried out.

“This effort to create a kinder and gentler criminal justice system adds to the burden on law enforcement by putting convicted felons back on the streets sooner, and will inevitably contribute to a rising crime rate and greater misery for the populace as a whole,” Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, one of the authors, said in a statement accompanying this week’s release of the report. He is the ranking Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Click here to read the full story.

On Air

Additional Coverage:

  • Click here to read our release on the DOC report
  • Washington State Wire: Senate Republicans release prison recommendations
  • LISTEN: John Carlson Show, Sept.16--7am hour. GUEST: St. Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane) talks to KVI about the increases in crimes in WA as the state is jailing fewer and fewer prisoners, a new report about how these crime and punishment levels will impact 2022…
  • LISTEN: Jason Rantz Show, Sept. 16, Hour 3. The Interview: Sen. Mike Padden stops by to discuss an effort by Washington lawmakers to empty prison cells and return convicted felons to the street.
  • News Break: New Report Says Release of WA Felons is ‘Intentional’ and Dangerous. A new report released by GOP Senate Republicans certainly makes the case that Democrats, Gov. Inslee, and his administration are purposefully releasing potentially dangerous criminals and making the streets less safe for citizens. The extensive report, released by Sens. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup, and Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, tracks back the last five years, showing the epic failure of the state's correctional system.
  • ON THE AIR: Mike Padden talks with KONA Radio’s The Bottom Line about a new state Senate report that sounds the alarm about an effort to empty prisons and return felons to the street.
  • LISTEN: Lars Larson Show: Senator Chris Gildon tells radio talk show host Lars Larson that lenient Democrat policies put citizens’ lives at risk.

State official’s comparison of state legislators to Taliban is hateful and uncivil behavior

Texas Abortion Law

Demonstrators outside the state Capitol building in Austin, Texas. Photographer: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Earlier this month, the state insurance commissioner made inflammatory comments, declaring that Republican state legislators in Texas “have become America’s own version of the Taliban” after a new law effectively banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected went into effect. The law was signed by the Texas governor in May, but Commissioner Mike Kreidler didn’t make his allegation until September, after efforts to stay the law failed.

The new Texas law is intended to save and protect innocent human life. The Taliban are known for ending innocent human lives and other atrocities, but Commissioner Kreidler is blatantly disregarding that with his hateful and absurd comparison, which he apparently made in hopes of appearing relevant and scoring cheap partisan points. It’s telling that he singled out Republicans when the legislation received support from Texas state legislators from both political parties.

The commissioner’s rhetoric is unbecoming of a public servant and the opposite of the thoughtful civil discourse the people of Washington deserve. It’s out of line, and he should apologize.

Click here to read more.

Freedom Caucus vaccination-rights bill becomes rallying point against Inslee decree

Gov. Jay Inslee’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate has stirred a hornet’s nest in Olympia, and a vaccination-rights bill introduced nine months ago by my fellow Freedom Caucus founding member, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, has become a focal point for protest.

Thousands of emails and phone calls have poured into legislative offices since the governor announced the expansion of his “get shot or get fired” mandate. Constituent contacts last week came at a rate of about 100 per hour for every legislative office.

The bulk of them are demanding passage of SB 5144, a measure to protect the right to choose.

The bill specifically forbids state and local governments and private employers from firing unvaccinated workers.

Click here to read more.

State of Reform:

Washington state legislators outline priorities for 2022 legislative session

By Soraya Marashi | Sep 16, 2021

Six Washington State lawmakers — three Republican and three Democratic — gathered last week to discuss pressing health care issues and policies they expect to address in the upcoming 2022 legislative session. The conversations took place during two separate panels at the 2021 Inland Northwest State of Reform Health Policy Conference.

… [Senator Mike] Padden says he is hoping to bring back Senate Bill 5247, which relates to the multistate nurse licensure compact, in order to address the nursing workforce shortage. Padden says he will continue to oppose Senate Bill 5234, concerning the long-term care payroll tax, citing his concerns about financing the program.

Click here to read the full article.

From the District:

Remembering 9/11 on the 20th anniversary

9-11 memorial

This year brought the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. The attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and another planned attack on the U.S. Capitol, killed 2,977 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Also among the casualties are those who have died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the years following the attacks. On September 11, 2012, America also lost another four souls in the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

In remembrance of the 2,996 souls lost on September 11, Jaci Michaelis, a local nurse, erected a memorial display at her Spokane Valley home with a flag for each of the victims.

As I try to do each year, I stopped by to see the display and talk with Jaci.

As we get further and further away from 9/11, many young people have no idea of the significance of that day. Please take time to educate some young person in your life about September 11 -- not just about the violent acts and the deaths, but also about the heroism, patriotism and unity that we all shared in the days following 9/11. Out of tragedy came one of the greatest lessons about the American spirit

Contact us!

If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We are here to serve you!

Phone: (360) 786-7606

Street address: 106 Irv Newhouse Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia, WA 98504

Postal address: PO Box 40404, Olympia, WA 98504

Email address:

PLEASE NOTE: Any email or documents you provide to this office may be subject to disclosure under RCW 42.56. If you would prefer to communicate by phone, please contact Sen. Padden's Olympia office, which will be open starting Jan. 6, at (360) 786-7606.

To request public records from Sen. Padden, please contact Randi Stratton who is the designated public records officer for the Secretary of the Senate and Senate members.