Washington State is sending an increasing number of its prison inmates out of state, which creates a hardship for family members who want to visit them and interrupts the classes inmates take to prepare them for their release, reports the Tacoma News Tribune. Washington soon will have 1,273 of its 18,500 inmates serving parts of their sentences at private prisons in Arizona, Minnesota and, Oklahoma. Severe overcrowding in Washington's 15 prisons forced the state to send its inmates elsewhere. Most of them will remain at private prisons operated by Corrections Corporation of America until sometime in 2009, when the state will be able to transfer inmates to a bigger prison now under construction.
Officials want their out-of-state inmate placements to have at least five years remaining on their sentences because inmates who are closer to release are eligible for work-release and other programs. Eighty-one percent of inmates have family ties. The average age is 34, so they have aging parents and ties with significant others, spouses, and children. The state prison population is expected to rise to 20,000 by mid-2009. Prison officials already are renting 730 county jail cells to house inmates who were released but violated rules of their community supervision.