CLALLAM BAY — An Oct. 7-9 nonviolent meal strike at Clallam Bay Corrections Center resulted in the transfer of 36 inmates to other institutions in a move an inmate support group called retaliation and the state described as a safety measure.
The inmates were transferred after they shouted at other inmates, directed them to observe the strike and intimidated them from using prison facilities such as telephones, a prison spokesperson said.
There were no reports of injuries or fights during the strike. There were threats of violence, corrections spokesperson Janelle Guthrie said Tuesday in an email.
“We modified the population before the actual violence occurred,” she said.
Clallam Bay Community Support Group last week urged the state Department of Corrections, Gov. Jay Inslee and the corrections center administration “to stop retaliating against incarcerated people and to protect their human rights,” according to a statement the group released Oct. 15.
“Among their concerns are 36 people who were transferred to prisons across the state and who are now in solitary confinement as a result of their alleged involvement in a food and work strike that began at CBCC on October 7,” the statement said.
“The demands of the strikers range in focus from food quality to concerns about wages and policies that violate First Amendment rights.”
The Clallam Bay Community Support Group said that more than 700 inmates comprising more than 90 percent of the prison population participated in the strike, adding the facility was put on 24-hour lockdown starting Oct. 7.
Prison officials disputed that the institution was put on lockdown.
They said the close- and maximum-security institution was on restricted movement, a lesser form of confinement.
In response to the support group’s statement, Guthrie said Wednesday in an email that 36 Clallam Bay inmates were transferred to other facilities Oct. 9 for their actions during the meal strike.
Of those, 21 were put into those facilities’ general populations.
She said 15 were put into “restrictive housing” at the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla “pending further interviews with them this week, at which time decisions will be made about their future placements,” she said.
Guthrie said interviews and “intelligence” from within the prison in the days leading up to the strike and during the strike indicated that “a significant number of individuals were reporting threats of violence for failure to participate in the incident,” Guthrie said in the email.
Those threats and “concern for the health and safety of both the population and the staff” led to restricted-movement status imposed Oct. 7, she said.
Prison staff also said that during the strike, some inmates were “directing others to return to their cells and adhere to the strike,” Guthrie said in her email.
“Staff also witnessed some incarcerated individuals shouting at others and intimidating them from taking showers or using the phones at times designated for their use.”
Before the meal strike, prison Superintendent Jeri Boe sent a memo to the population pledging to prepare lunches onsite instead of receiving prepackaged meals, Guthrie said.
Boe also pledged to provide higher-quality fruits and vegetables and said onsite lunch preparation would begin this week.
The support group said most of those targeted by the “retaliatory transfers” were “men of color who are social justice leaders and advocates inside the prison.”
One such man is represented by Laney B. Ellisor of Boise Matthews, a Portland, Ore., law firm.
She said Tuesday her client, who has been in prison since 1997 on an aggravated murder conviction, was transferred from Clallam Bay to Walla Walla, where he is in solitary confinement.
He told her the other Clallam Bay inmates transferred there are also in solitary confinement, also known as intensive management units.
Ellisor said her client, a man of color who “fit the bill” of being a leader within the prison, did not participate in the strike and was transferred out of Clallam Bay with other influential inmates.
“The irony there is that he acknowledged that he and some of the others were working to end the strike,” she said.
“He was certainly not intimidating other people to participate in the strike.”
Ellisor said it is typical for inmates transferred to an institution to be placed in solitary confinement, or an intensive management unit, if beds are not available.
“If you’ve done nothing wrong, it works in practice as punitive,” she said.
Ellisor said she did not know when her client will be transferred from Walla Walla.
Tara Lee, a spokesperson for Inslee’s office, said Clallam Bay Support Group’s concerns are being reviewed by the Office of the Corrections Ombuds, an agency independent of the Department of Corrections.
She said the governor’s office was briefed on the transfers.
“It’s our understanding that it was appropriate to do so given the health and mostly safety risks of other incarcerated individuals,” Lee said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.