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Washington Corrections Chief Takes Job With Private Prison Company

File photo of a tower at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
Washington State Department of Corrections
File photo of a tower at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Washington Secretary of Corrections Bernie Warner is leaving to take a job with a private prison company.

Warner said "there’s no connection" between Tuesday’s announcement and the recent controversy over the transfer of serial killer Gary Ridgway to Colorado. After a hue and cry, Ridgway will be returned to Washington even as Warner prepares to leave.

In fact, Warner said Governor Jay Inslee asked him to stay. Instead, Warner will move to Utah to work for Management and Training Corporation. It’s a private prison contractor with operations in eight states -- none in Washington.

Warner said he’s proud of the legacy he leaves at the Department of Corrections.

“Focusing on programs that change criminal behavior, focusing on re-entry, it’s a difficult transition from prison to the community,” Warner said.

But Warner said the state has challenges ahead. There’s not enough money to offer prison programs to all inmates and the system is on track to be 1,000 beds short by 2020.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."