Three inmates at the Washington State prison at Shelton are locked into 8-by-10 cells designed for one, says the Associated Press. This prison, the most crowded in a badly crowded state system, could easily erupt into violence at the slightest provocation, officials say. Inmates blow up, sometimes over something as little as not having butter on the table, and infractions and assaults are all too frequent. It’s a miracle there hasn’t been a riot, guards say. The state has 16,000 inmates jammed into space with a supposed “emergency” capacity of 14,700 and a recommended population of 12,000. Officials predict the number will soar to more than 20,000 within a decade.
Officials worry that the lack of prison uprisings or slayings lulls people into thinking the problem can be managed at this level. The state has shipped more than 500 inmates to prisons in Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, and Arizona, and a similar number to six county jails. Lawmakers are considering $188 million in prison construction, as well as changes that would mean earlier release for hundreds of inmates, as well as more drug treatment and home confinement. “We’re cooped up and stuffy, and we just try to deal with it as best as we can,” said Edward Pettit, 30, who’s in for violating his parole. He’s the third man in the cell – known as the “rug,” because he sleeps on a mat on the floor.