The Department of Corrections (DOC) may soon release inmates months early, and slash supervision for nearly all felons on probation in order to meet budget cuts requested by Governor Christine Gregoire earlier this summer.

The state is facing a $1.4 billion shortfall, and Gov. Gregoire has asked all state agencies to cut their budgets between 5 and 10 percent.

According to two law enforcement sources familiar with ongoing budget discussions, the DOC is looking at a plan that would cut all inmate sentences by four months, close two prisons, and cut most probation officers, effectively ending probation for all offenders, with the exception of sex offenders, some drug offenders, and domestic violence offenders.

Violent criminals, burglars, and car thieves, would no longer be supervised by DOC officers, who currently make regular contacts with parolees, test them for drugs, and make sure they are following the terms of their parole.

One law enforcement source familiar with details of proposal called the cuts “dangerous and devastating.”

"If you don’t watch [offenders] and you don’t prevent crime," the source says, "I can promise you you don’t want to live in a state like that."

The DOC is also examining a slightly less drastic plan, which would still make deep cuts in the department.

If DOC were to cut 5 percent from its budget, the department would release specific inmates four months ahead of schedule, close one prison, and trim offenders’ probation to just six months, saving $80 million.  The department would also cut 200 employees.

DOC is also examining furloughs and across-the-board paycuts to make the budget.

Both plans also call for an increase in the use of home monitoring and GPS tracking of offenders, and offenders would no longer face jail time for a probation violation.

According to one source, the proposal has not yet been finalized or sent to Governor Gregoire, but could be sent to her office later today.

DOC spokeswoman Maria Peterson confirmed the drastic cuts are "on the table."

Peterson added, "the department is certainly not endorsing them as good ideas for public safety."




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