Textile industry at Walla Walla Penitentiary closing - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Textile industry at Walla Walla Penitentiary closing

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WALLA WALLA, Wash.- Leaders of Correctional Industries say a law allowing the Department of Corrections to buy uniforms from the private sector was a million dollar hit to their business.

"There will be job losses within Correctional Industries. Whether those positions will get absorbed into the DOC family of Correctional Industries is yet to be determined based on union negotiations and bargaining," says Correctional Industries General Manager Wesley Marcum.

Marcum says now they'll have to close the textile industry at the Walla Walla State Pen. Risking not only inmate jobs but civilian jobs.

State Representative Maureen Walsh says she sponsored HB 2346 because correctional officers were complaining about the quality of their uniforms.

But she didn't want to force the closing of the entire prison textile industry where they make other products like inmate clothing.

"I got one guy who is losing his job and they seem to be saying if I didn't pass this little uniform bill he wouldn't be losing his job. And I call bull on that. I think someone's not getting the straight scoop here," says Walsh.

Leaders at Correctional Industries say their program is proven to bring down violence, and help prepare inmates for jobs outside the walls.

"Having that sort of positive investment inside the prison makes it safe. And then public safety when they get out," says Director of Correctional Industries Lyle Morse

Walsh says she doesn't deny the benefits of giving the inmates jobs, but never thought the new law would cause such a re-structuring at Correctional Industries.

"They sort of have been led to believe that it's all based on this uniform bill and I'm just not sure that's entirely accurate. Other than that's just a convenient excuse if you will," says Walsh.

Leaders at Correctional Industries say like any other business they need to consolidate after taking a financial hit.  They'll be moving resources from the textile industry to the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.