Teamster Jessica Poston, a counselor at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, joined several other state employees who spoke at a rally the Western State Hospital in Lakewood today.
The speakers were part of the All In For Action coalition that is calling on the state Senate to come to the table to pass a budget that fully funds important programs local communities depend on as opposed to protecting tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy.
You can read Jessica's remarks below:
Good afternoon. My name is Jessica Poston. I am a classification counselor at the Washington Corrections Center for Women and a proud member of Teamsters Local 117. I’m a single mother of 2 beautiful girls ages 10 and 19.
At WCCW it is my job to provide guidance and information about resources for inmates in prison as they make the difficult transition from prison life into our communities. Most of my day I spend in the confines of a small room, within arm’s reach of people who have committed terrible crimes. Due to the negative environment I have positive quotes all around me. Many times, over the course of my 16.5 year career in corrections, I have felt that my own safety or the safety of my co-workers was threatened. I currently have a safety plan in place due to an offender threatening my life. My children and I talk often about ways to stay safe and I answer their questions when they see articles about assaults in prisons.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my job and know how essential it is to keeping our communities safe. But when resources are thin or we are short staffed, my life and the lives of my co-workers is put in jeopardy. And that’s exactly what will happen if the legislature does not pass a responsible, humane budget immediately.
If our government shuts down, thousands of hardworking men and women at the Department of Corrections may be laid off. In my unit alone we have 3 Officers watching over 262 offenders. These are women with violent crimes, crimes against children and women serving life without sentences. If the legislature does not pass a responsible, humane budget immediately the safety of the ones that are left behind with 1000+ offenders, worries me most.
In a government shutdown, we go into what’s called “modified lockdown” at the DOC. Staffing levels are cut. Programming comes a halt. Time in the yard is limited. And inmates are locked up for most of the day in their cells. Under those conditions, inmates tend to get bored, restless, frustrated, and angry. It often leads to violence directed at each other or at staff. Our violence in the female prisons is already on the rise due to overcrowding, offenders sleeping on the floor, offenders being sent to Yakima county jail and offender on overrides to camp settings because we don’t have room for them. Our mental health population has grown tremendously. This in itself causes a rise in violence. When we go into a modified lock down the majority of us will be laid off leaving less support for critical situations.
My co-workers and I put our lives on line to protect our communities. My 10 year old is entering 6th grade and my 19 year old just finished her first year at Central Washington University. Over the last year I have worked to save money to take my girls on our first family vacation. My oldest is concerned about not being able to go every time she hears someone ask me about the layoffs. Trying to explain to my girls how the legislature not agreeing on a budget impacts my job is tough. My youngest is in special ed at school and as we have meetings she hears us discuss the budget and the lack of support we have (DOC and the Schools) from the legislature truly shows in moments like this. It’s tough enough raising two girls with good strong ethics and morals and to go to work every day and work with people no one wants to be around. But explaining that I work for a group of people who want me to do my job every day but cannot do theirs is not easy.
We expect the state legislature to do its job. Stop messing around. Pass a budget now that invests in state workers, who serve and protect all of us. Investing in corrections employees will provide an economic boost to communities across our state. Thank you.
Watch the coverage of Jessica and her daughter on KOMO 4 tv here: