Philip Howse surveys abandoned equipment on McNeil Island looking for salvage.
One of the great pleasures of our recent trip to McNeil Island was visiting with Teamsters 117 member Philip Howse, a senior heavy equipment mechanic who has been in state service since 1998.
Howse is a Department of Corrections employee with Correctional Industries (CI). He moved over from DSHS to DOC in 2011 when the state shuttered the prison on the island after over 135 years of operation.
Howse oversees a team of four inmates whom he mentors and trains to refurbish machinery that has been abandoned on the island.
"We're tearing that transmission apart and putting it back together," says Howse as he shows us around his shop.
Howse learned his trade while serving in the Marines, then obtained further certification in technical college after leaving the military.
All of the inmates under Howse's supervision are within two years of their release date. "It's important that they learn a skill that can help them get a job when they return to our community," he said. "Our job is to teach them that skill."
After a tour of the shop, Howse sped us around the island. He showed us the water filtration plant, the water treatment plant, and the Special Commitment Center that houses over 200 sex offenders and is operated by the Department of Social and Health Services.
For Howse, a grassy yard with abandoned machinery, is a salvage opportunity for future projects. "We'd like to repair that crane," he said, pointing to a 40-year-old rusting hulk of equipment in the yard.
Our last stop was a small cemetery where inmates at the prison were buried years ago. The graves were numbered, but the majority were missing nameplates. "It's hard to imagine," Howse said, pointing to one of the headstones. "That was somebody's father, son, or brother. They've been forgotten now."
Howse drove us back through the woods, along the muddy tracks, down to the terminal, where our new members who operate the ferries to the island ushered us on board.
Terrie Matsen works at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center and has served the state for 25 years. She started out as an AC Cook at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, transferred to the Olympic Corrections Center in Forks for a year, and now works in the mailroom at Stafford Creek. She talked about why she’s attending our upcoming Legislative Reception and Lobby Day event on February 13-14.
Why do you think it’s important to go to Olympia and talk with your legislators?
I think it’s important because I don’t think legislators have a total understanding of what we do in corrections. It gives us the opportunity to explain our duties and the things we go through on a day-to-day basis. We need to get them to understand that there’s risk every day when we walk in here.
How many times have you been to Olympia to speak about issues that you face?
I’ve been there numerous times. I’ve done the Day of Action and several other times – I think eight times total.
How would you describe the experience of meeting with your legislators?
Some legislators are more open and receiving to us than others. You’re going to have some who think that state workers are already overpaid, but that’s not the case. They don’t see the whole picture of what we do.
What’s the most important thing to convey when talking with them?
The risk involved. We provide a service – not just for us – but it effects the whole community and the state as a whole.
What would you say to your co-workers who have never been to Olympia and are thinking about attending Lobby Day?
I would say go. It’s eye opening. You get the opportunity to have your voice heard and it’s imperative that your voice gets heard. The more participation, the stronger we stand.
Officer Patrick Collecchi at our Holiday Membership Meeting at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center.
Officer Patrick Collecchi of the Stafford Creek Corrections Center talks about why he plans to attend our DOC Lobby Day on February 13 and 14. Officer Collecchi is new to DOC and has been at SCCC since March.
Why are you planning to attend our DOC Lobby Day?
I've seen a lot of other state agencies who haven't had very good representation. I'd like to go down with my Union that has shown more support for me and my co-workers.
What do you hope to achieve by going to Lobby Day?
I want to make sure we get our contract funded. I want to build that level of camaraderie with my co-workers and show that we can be involved in decisions like this that affect us in the workplace.
Have you ever been down to speak with your legislators in Olympia before?
No. I spoke with my Congressman once when I was in the Marines but that is about it.
How do you expect that it will go?
I'm not too nervous about it. I've got plenty of support with me.
What would you say to encourage your co-workers to attend Lobby Day with you?
If you are unseen and unheard, you are not cared for.
Anything you'd like to add?
I'm glad that we have interest arbitration in our contract so that we have that third party. So that it's not just us against them. We now have a mediator in there. From the taxpayers' standpoint, there is now someone neutral coming in there saying this is feasible.
Tammy Kimball hopes her story will bring awareness to the dangers of working in a prison and help prevent a future assault.
On the morning of June 14, 2014, Tammy Kimball’s life changed forever. She arrived at work early in the morning as she did every day. Tammy works as an AC Cook at the Washington State Penitentiary where she supervises inmates working in the kitchen.
Working in a prison carries constant risk. Tammy had been on staff at WSP for four years. She has the instincts of a trained prison employee.Read more
Well over a dozen Teamster volunteers spent the afternoon on Saturday talking to voters in and around Walla Walla.
Our group was getting out the vote for Jared Frerichs, a Local 117 member who is running for County Commissioner.
Jared is a military veteran and a Correctional Specialist who works at the Washington State Penitentiary.
"I’ve always felt a deep love and commitment to my community," Jared says. "Many of my values and lessons were formed in the fields, hills, and along the riverbanks of the Walla Walla Valley."
Jared's running on a platform of bringing more living-wage jobs to Walla Walla county, ensuring that residents of the county feel safe, and protecting the environment.
Officer Robert Pridemore of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center is a Defensive Tactics Instructor for DOC.
Teaching defensive tactics is physically demanding work. Trainers need to both master and demonstrate the techniques. An arm bar takedown is an unpleasant experience. After two or three drops to the mat, the body can start to get sore.
It’s not only that, says Officer Robert Pridemore. The certification process for trainers is rigorous as well. “It can be pretty tough. I’m working with guys half my age,” he says.
Pridemore, who is pursuing his Master Instructor certification which he expects to receive this November, has already spent six weeks at the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien so far this year and an additional two weeks training with the DOC.Read more
Jared Frerichs is a Correctional Officer at the Washington State Penitentiary and is running for Walla Walla County Commissioner
Jared Frerichs is a military veteran and CO2 at the Washington State Penitentiary. He is also running for Walla Walla County Commissioner. Earlier this week Jared finished second in his primary, therefore advancing to the November 8 general election. We caught up with Jared to ask about his campaign and his message to Walla Walla County voters.
Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.
I’ve always felt a deep love and commitment to my community. Many of my values and lessons were formed in the fields, hills, and along the riverbanks of the Walla Walla Valley.
When I turned eighteen, I joined the United States Coast Guard. After serving in the military for 10 years, I moved back to Walla Walla County. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but had a desire to make things better in my local community.
I began working for the DOC as a corrections officer at the recommendation of my mother. She has been a psychologist at WSP for about 15 years. She told me I would enjoy corrections work.
How have you been involved with your union at DOC?
I have always had a passion for politics. I was thrilled that my union offered me the opportunity to meet with my lawmakers in Olympia. I saw the immediate impact of these meetings. Every issue we talked about led to laws being passed that budget cycle.
After that, I applied to become a shop steward, and have been very active with the union ever since. I always tell my coworkers that engagement with the union is how we solve issues in the workplace and in our community.
Thank you to the excellent team of DOC nurses and other medical staff at WSP and across the state for your critical care, compassion, and your service.
Thank you to the outstanding team of DOC nurses and other medical staff at WSP and across the state.
Medical staff at our state’s prisons face the stressful and challenging task of providing health care services to convicted felons. Just like DOC custody staff, they put their lives on the line every day to serve the public.
Our DOC medical professionals work long hours, in a difficult environment to deliver compassionate, critical, and ethical care. We are grateful for their commitment, professionalism, and patience.
Please join us in thanking them for their service!
Sergeant Frank Longoria at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center near Olympia.
“I’ve been Union my whole life,” said Sgt. Frank Longoria of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center near Olympia. “For me, it’s always been about people’s rights.”
The son of migrant farmworkers, Longoria grew up in the fields in eastern Washington. In his 20s, he marched with Cesar Chavez and supported the United Farmworkers’ boycott of Gallo wine. He worked in a variety of industries, from agriculture to construction. When his brother urged him to get a job with health coverage and retirement, he applied at the DOC.Read more
Officer John McDonald aka Big Mac at his gatehouse post at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
One of the longstanding keepers of the gatehouse at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla is Officer John McDonald, a.k.a. Big Mac.
Big Mac has served at WSP since 1981 and has worked in all parts of the facility. He spent 23 years in the towers and for a time oversaw a corner of the yard, which became known as Mac’s Corner.
When inmates seized control of his unit in 1982, he was taken hostage. “Back then, we didn’t have OC, or radios – just our keys and our wits,” he said.Read more