Where We Are Now
No New Washington Prisons started as No New Women's Prison; we wanted to stop the Washington's Department of Corrections (DOC) from building a new prison in Thurston County, the Maple Lane project. That project is currently stalled. But the fight is far from over!
As we have deepened our research about Washington State’s upcoming plans, we’ve learned that while the women’s prison expansion is currently on hold, the budget still includes plans for a > $600 million expansion of Western State Hospital. Western State Hospital provides the state with several forms of mental health incarceration including "forensic" commitment where folks with mental illness are sent to be "restored" so that they can be prosecuted and sent to jail or prison. If they cannot be "restored" they are confined in the hospital indefinitely. Psychiatric institutions like this have been imprisoning disabled people for hundreds of years; Western State (formerly known as the "Fort Steilacoom Asylum") has been open since 1871.
Now is not the time for investing in more incarceration! This movement is about stopping all prisons everywhere and getting imprisoned people out. It is about investing in the resources that our communities want and need, like childcare, healthcare, housing, and income support.
How We Got Here
2021 - We are working on a campaign to stop the expansion of Western State Hospital.
We are also involved in efforts to stop the legislature of expanding criminalization in Washington this session.
2020 - In November we learned that Governor Inslee and DSHS were proposing to add more capacity for incarceration to Western State Hospital. We decided as a group to fight this expansion because it is a form of prison expansion.
In July we changed from No New Women's Prison to No New Washington Prisons!
In late April, DOC said it plans to continue trying to build a new women's prison at Maple Lane and blamed the Thurston County vote on COVID-19 and not community organizing. In an email, DOC's outreach director wrote "The Maple Lane Corrections Center project was removed from the docket due to the State of Washington's current 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' emergency order in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. [DOC] will resume its forward momentum as the state again returns to its operations." NNWP will not let this happen.
On April 23, Thurston County's Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to take re-zoning Maple Lane off its docket. Commissioner Tye Menser explained his decision, saying "I've gotten input from all sorts of folks in the community. Some are activist groups but others are very local people."
On April 15, Governor Inslee commuted the sentence of 1,100 people imprisoned for nonviolent convictions - all of whom were already scheduled to be released by the end of June. These commutations included only 60 people in women's prisons.
In early April, NNWP partnered with Survived and Punished for a social media campaign to mobilize people to call the governor and county commissioners and voice their opposition to the new prison. Following this action, our membership more than doubled.
2019 - In the fall, NNWP formed after learning about the DOC's plans for Maple Lane. We unified in our belief that the overcrowding in prisons is actually just over-incarcerating, and the solution is releasing prisoners and investing in transformative justice, not building more prisons. The prison at Maple Lane is being framed as a "humane" facility focused on re-entry. But we know that there is no such thing as a "humane" cage. Our points of unity include our commitment to prison abolition, collective power, community accountability, racial justice, and feminism.