Individual Reentry Plans. The Department of Corrections (DOC) must develop individual reentry plans for each person incarcerated under its jurisdiction except for persons sentenced to life without the possibility of release, sentenced to death, and those subject to deportation. Individual reentry plans must include plans to maintain contact with family; a portfolio of the person's educational achievements, previous employment, work experience, and any training received; and a plan for the person to facilitate reentry into the community that addresses education, employment, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, family reunification, and other needs.
For incarcerated individuals being released to community custody, the individual must be released to their county of origin unless DOC determines an individual's return to their county of origin would be inappropriate based on victim safety concerns, negative influences on the person in the community, location of family or sponsoring persons, and court-ordered sentence conditions.
Educational Goals for Incarcerated Persons. DOC must offer certain education and work programs to persons incarcerated at a state correctional institution based on available funding and the following goals in the order listed:
If programming is provided for any of the first three goals above, DOC must pay for the cost, including books, materials, and supplies. If programming is provided for the last goal, the incarcerated person must pay all or a portion of the cost, including books, fees, and tuition based on a formula that correlates to the incarcerated person's average monthly income, available savings and a prorated percent of the per-credit fee. A third party may pay DOC directly for all or a portion of the programming costs aligned with the last goal.
Associate Degree Programs. In 2017, the Legislature authorized DOC to implement associate workforce degree programs at state correctional institutions. The associate workforce degree programs may include any education program from an accredited community or technical college, college, or university designed to prepare incarcerated persons to enter the workforce. Individuals may be selected to participate in a state-funded associate degree program based on priority criteria determined by DOC that considers the following:
Incarcerated persons who do not meet the priority criteria for state-funded associate degree programs must pay for the program themselves, if they elect to participate. Incarcerated persons sentenced to life without the possibility of release, sentenced to death, or subject to deportation under federal law may not participate in a state-funded associate degree program.
Transfers. The secretary of DOC is authorized to transfer an incarcerated individual between in-state correctional facilities or to out-of-state governmental institutions if the secretary determines that transfer is in the best interest of the state or individual. Factors to consider include overcrowding, emergency conditions, and hardship to the individual. When determining whether transfer would impose a hardship, the secretary must consider location and contact with the individual's family and whether the individual is enrolled in a vocational or educational program that cannot reasonably be resumed if the individual is returned to the state.
Postsecondary Education Programs at State Correctional Institutions. DOC's authority to implement associate workforce degree programs at state correctional institutions is expanded to postsecondary education degree or certificate programs, but is limited to no more than a bachelor's degree. State-recognized preapprenticeship programs may also be included as appropriate postsecondary education programs. Priority consideration may be given to incarcerated persons within ten years or less of release, instead of five years or less. DOC must work with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to develop a plan to assist incarcerated individuals participating in state-funded postsecondary degree or certificate programs with filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or the Washington Application for State Financial Aid.
Incarcerated persons sentenced to life without the possibility of release, sentenced to death, or subject to deportation may not participate in a postsecondary education degree program unless it is paid for by a third party.
Educational Goals for Incarcerated Persons. DOC's educational goals for incarcerated persons are modified as follows:
DOC must establish a process by rule for identifying and assessing incarcerated persons with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and other cognitive impairments to determine whether the person requires accommodations to effectively participate in educational programming, including GED tests and postsecondary education. DOC must establish a process to provide accommodations to these persons.
Transfers. When determining whether to transfer an incarcerated individual to another in-state facility, DOC must consider whether the person is enrolled in a vocational or educational program, including those operated by approved outside providers, which cannot be continued at the receiving facility. DOC must work with the person's case manager, counselor, education navigator, or other appropriate person to attempt to meet the needs of DOC and the individual.
County of Origin. Unless there are victim safety concerns, DOC must consider the incarcerated person's return to their county of origin to be inappropriate if the individual is enrolled in an educational program that cannot be completed in their county of origin.
Transcripts. For incarcerated individuals who participated in postsecondary education programs, DOC must provide the person with a copy of their unofficial transcripts, at no cost to the individual, upon the person's release or transfer to another facility, or upon the person's completion of a postsecondary education program. This requirement applies regardless of whether the incarcerated individual became ineligible to participate or abandoned a postsecondary education program.
Tuition Fees. Tuition fees charged at public higher education institutions do not apply to incarcerated students at DOC who are participating in credit-eligible postsecondary education courses and degree programs when the program expenses are funded by nontuition resources such as grants, contracts, and donations.
Washington State Institute for Public Policy Study. Subject to appropriations, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) must conduct a study on enrollment, completion, and recidivism rates of incarcerated individuals in the postsecondary education system post-release. A preliminary report is due October 1, 2024, and a final report is due October 1, 2027. WSIPP must study:
State Agency Report. DOC, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the Washington Student Achievement Council, and the Washington Statewide Reentry Council, in collaboration with an organization representing the presidents of the public four-year higher education institutions, must submit a combined report to the appropriate committees of the Legislature with oversight over higher education and correctional matters by December 1, 2021, and annually thereafter. The report must strive to include voices and experiences of current or formerly incarcerated individuals and must include the following:
References to offender, inmate, and prisoner are changed to incarcerated individuals throughout the bill.
PRO: Correctional education programs improve job prospects, reduce recidivism, and save taxpayer dollars. There are long-term contributions to public safety and communities in which formerly incarcerated individuals return. There is demand among state businesses for a larger pool of certificated workers, and providing more postsecondary education opportunities can address the need for skilled workers and reduce state spending on criminal justice, all while providing formerly incarcerated individuals and their families with tools to obtain employment, stabilize their lives, and build sustainable careers. Postsecondary education opportunities improve literacy skills, reduce crime, promote equity, and are cost-effective. There are also significant positive effects on children whose parents are incarcerated and participate in education programs, breaking intergenerational cycles of inequality and poverty.
DOC will need expanded technological supports to expand on secured Internet pilot and provide disability support services. Not only does education have a transformative effect on those inside but it also has a positive influence on prison culture for both staff and the incarcerated. Restrictions on incarcerated individuals serving long sentences are inhumane and should be removed. Removing barriers and expanding access to education opportunities will lead to better reentry outcomes for persons of color and their communities.
OTHER: DOC is not equipped to assess or provide accommodations to persons with disabilities. DOC should contract with the Office of Education Ombuds or a nonprofit organization for technical assistance and to make sure persons with developmental disabilities receive accommodations.