Washington State Penitentiary

Looking north at the Washington State Penetentiary, Oct. 17, 2021.

This story has been modified since its initial publication to reflect a correction.

The Washington State Penitentiary has adequate staffing for operations, according to the state Department of Corrections, yet the agency has still not released estimates of how many employees of the local prison have left their jobs as a result of the state vaccine mandate this week.

“We don’t actually have a good number to provide at this time,” said Shell Stephens, public information officer for the state Penitentiary. “The situation is very fluid.”

Part of the difficulty in providing a facility-level estimate of separations, Stephens said, comes from the interweaving of various departmental staff in a facility, such as health services and correctional industries. Not every organization with staff at the Penitentiary has provided accurate numbers, she said.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 19, approximately 350 employees across the state Department of Corrections have either quit or been fired as a result of Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccination mandate for state employees, according to Rachel Ericson, deputy communications director for the DOC.

This represents around 4.5% of the agency’s 8,500 employees across all divisions of the department.

Of the staff still with the Department of Corrections as of Tuesday, 92% are vaccinated, Ericson said.

According to a report by the state Office of Financial Management, which does not indicate how many separations have occurred at facilities, 1,001 staff members remain at the Penitentiary as of Tuesday.

Of those, nearly 89.5% have been verified as being fully vaccinated.

In addition, 10 of the remaining employees have received accommodations after requesting a religious or medical exemption to the vaccination mandate, according to the report.

Emry Dinman can be reached at emrydinman@wwub.com or 425-941-5829.

Reporter covering agriculture, Walla Walla city and county government, and other topics.

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