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OPINION: New D.O.C. Policy Causes Unintended and Unfair Consequences

Washington State Department of Correcection has implemented a rule that holds everyone on an incarcerated individuals visiting list accountable for the actions of another visitor despite there being no direct connection or correlation between visitors, that is, those who have and have not violated policy.

For example, if a mother (who has never committed a violation) enjoys regular video visits with her son, but her son's girl friend commits a violation resulting suspension, the Department of Corrections will not only suspend visitation with the person who committed the offense, but the department will also suspend visiting privileges with every other visitor on the incarcerated individuals visiting list, regardless if they themselves ever committed any visitation violations. Jpay will block anyone else wishing to set up visitation with their loved one and will not allow them to schedule a visit with the incarcerated individual, all on account or at the expense of someone else's offense. Thus, punishing them for someone else's actions, and ultimately placing their visiting privileges in the hands of another visitor.

Therefore, any angry or disgruntled girlfriend, friend, or family member can, with malicious intent, decide to commit a violation purely out of spite knowing that it would result in the suspension of all of the other incarcerated individual's visitors.

This was not the department's policy writers intent. The intent when drafting the visitation policy was to reduce or eliminate any violation of the departments visitations standards and to impose suspension between the incarcerated individual and the VIOLATING PARTY--not to subject or hold all other visiting parties responsible or accountable for the actions of a single visitor. Futher, Washington State Department of Corrections supports strength in families, and the result of the unintended consequences of the current enforcement betrays that sentiment. This is especially true during C_vid protocols that force incarcerated individuals and their families to use jpay as their sole means of visitation. And finally, if a visitor violated policy during an in-person visit, that visitor would simply be asked to leave.

Suspensions for violations as it is currently being enforced would simply mean that the same individual, upon completion of suspension, could simply commit another violation, purely out of spite, and effectively suspend all visitation between the incarcerated individual and all other visitors. This was not the department's policy writers intent.

What is the remedy that we're seeking?

We respectfully ask that D.O.C. not put this additional strain on already strained families and relationships at a time where incarcerated individuals and their families are already experiencing significant difficulties after 2 years of pandemic conditions.

To remedy this unintended consequence by facilities across our state, visitation staff need only revisit and reestablish the visitation policies intent.

Therefore, the remedy that we're seeking is to call D.O.C. to go back to the original policy that allowed for visitation suspension to be only between the incarcerated individual and the violating party.

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