20th District legislators’ statements on Senate Democrat operating budget proposal to close Green Hill School

The Senate Democrat operating budget released today proposed to close Green Hill School and send all inmates elsewhere in the state.

Green Hill is a high-security juvenile detention center that houses criminals under the age of 18 that commit serious crimes. Since it’s opening in 1889, Green Hill has served as both a center to hold criminals before they are of age to be transferred to the Department of Corrections and an environment in which young offenders can earn high school diplomas and re-enter society as contributing citizens.

Green Hill employs more than 250 workers, including teachers and prison security. If closed as proposed in the Senate Democrat budget, the inmates would be combined with Maple Lane School in Grand Mound. Maple Lane houses criminals who are judged mentally ill, and the budget requires an additional $8 million to adapt it for Green Hill inmates.

All three Legislators from the 20th District, Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, and Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, agree that closing Green Hill is not the correct option. Instead, as proposed in the Governor’s budget, the legislators believe Naselle Youth Camp should be closed as those individuals in the camp can be moved more easily and at less cost to the state.

Statement from Sen. Dan Swecker

“For me, the math just doesn’t add up. The budget assumes a savings of 14 million dollars if Green Hill is closed. However, the state is in the middle of a project at Green Hill School that costs 13 million dollars and we will have to spend an additional 8 million dollars to make Maple Lane improvements. This appears to be a net loss, not a savings for the state.

“Green Hill is not only important to Lewis County in terms of jobs, but also important to the state as it houses individuals who have committed serious crimes. Green Hill has an excellent reputation not only in terms of security, but also for education and vocational programs. The bottom line is that Washington cannot afford to lose Green Hill.

“Our best chance to save Green Hill is to hope that the leadership in the House of Representatives will see the value of the juvenile detention center and not recommend closure in its budget that comes out tomorrow. I am willing to work to make sure that Green Hill stays open by whatever means possible. My fellow legislators from the 20th District and I are committed to working together on this issue.”

Statement from Rep. Richard DeBolt

“The senseless proposal to close Green Hill School is an indication that good government has taken a back seat to politics in the Democrats’ budgeting process.

“The challenges we are facing require that the Legislature provide a responsible and thoughtful approach to balancing the state budget without tax increases while delivering services as efficiently as possible. Virtually every analysis of our juvenile rehabilitation system has shown that Green Hill is best equipped to provide educational and recovery services for young offenders.

“That’s why the governor and others have universally agreed that the Naselle Youth Camp, not Green Hill, would be targeted for closure in order to streamline and update the state’s juvenile rehabilitation system. That’s why the state invested 13 million dollars in improvements on the Green Hill campus. Those improvements aren’t even complete yet. Now that 13 million dollar investment and the livelihoods of the people who work at Green Hill are being sacrificed in this budget by a group of people who simply don’t want Naselle to ever close.

“The proposal to shut the doors at Green Hill defies common sense. It jeopardizes our state’s juvenile rehabilitation network and asks taxpayers and families to pay the price for a political turf war.”

Statement from Rep. Gary Alexander

“I’m very troubled by the proposed closure of Green Hill School in the Senate budget. We must be sensitive to the different needs of the offenders at each facility. The plan to combine potentially violent juveniles from Green Hill School with the mentally ill juveniles of Maple Lane School makes no sense for the public safety of our incarcerated youth or for families.

“From a fiscal perspective, it makes no sense to close Green Hill School, particularly after the state recently invested millions of dollars in campus improvements. The state will now have to spend another 8 million dollars to renovate Maple Lane School to accommodate juvenile offenders being transferred from the Green Hill facility. This is the wrong decision and does not represent priorities of government.”

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For more information, contact: Brendon Wold, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7698

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov