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State budget cuts confine prisoners to cells at Monroe

A lockdown set for today is seen as a practice for others coming as part of spending cuts.

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By Rikki King
Herald Writer
MONROE — Inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex will be under lockdown today as part of the Department of Corrections' efforts to make up for a budget shortfall.
The lockdown will be a practice exercise for monthly modified lockdowns set to begin next month, said Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the department.
The Department of Corrections must cut 6 percent of its spending, or about $53 million, by the end of June 2011, he said.
Prison officials Monday said they were unsure how much money the lockdowns will save. They should have a better idea later this week.
During the lockdowns, inmates will only be allowed to leave their cells for meals. There will be no activity in the gymnasium, library or recreation areas. There also will be no education classes.
“It's a little different than your typical lockdown,” Lewis said.
The Teamsters Local Union 117, which represents state correctional workers, said Monday that it plans to protest the lockdowns. The protests are planned to begin with a press conference at 7 a.m. Wednesday at the prison.
Today's lockdown won't affect prison employees, but once the real lockdowns begin next month, employees who run special programs could see reduced hours, officials said.
After today, prison superintendents from around the state plan to meet and discuss how the practice lockdowns went, officials said Monday. They need to cut spending without compromising the safety of prison employees or inmates. They also plan to evaluate whether the lockdowns need to be more or less restrictive.
The inmates have been told of the lockdowns, Prisons Director Bernie Warner said.
“They need to understand that this budget problem is going to force us to really operate differently,” he said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449;
Story tags » MonroePrisonState

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