Nealey bill would allow inmates’ wages to be deducted for assaulting corrections officers

Rep. Terry Nealey has introduced a bill that would create a monetary penalty against inmates who injure corrections officers. House Bill 3008 would allow money to be deducted from an inmate’s wages, gratuities or workers’ compensation benefits for the purpose of satisfying a civil judgment awarded to a correctional officer or Department of Corrections employee who was assaulted by the inmate.

Nealey said he authored the bill at the request of several corrections officers who work at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

“Inmates are compensated for working within the prison walls, but they don’t make very much money. The officers from Walla Walla told me that other states which have used this law have found it very effective as a deterrent against inmate assaults on prison guards,” said Nealey, R-Dayton. “If it takes away privileges of what their small amount of money can buy, I think this measure will help us curb assaults against officers.”

Nealey says the law already sets up a formula of deductions in how inmates’ money can be used, according to his or her obligations. Money is withheld to satisfy child support payments, pay for incarceration, provide a percentage to the state general fund, and satisfy any legal financial obligations owed to the state Superior Court. Nealey’s bill would also set aside 20 percent of earnings from inmates who have assaulted an officer.

“Working inside a prison is inherently dangerous. There are several means of consequences prisoners face if they attempt to harm an officer. But giving prisoners who already have lengthy sentences a longer time to serve for engaging in assault is not as effective as hitting them directly in the pocketbook,” noted Nealey. “We want to make sure that our corrections officers remain safe and this is another tool to ensure that goal.”

The measure has been referred to the House Human Services Committee.

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