Department of Corrections fined $60K for COVID rule lapses

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Department of Corrections has been fined $60,000 for failing to enforce COVID-19 protective measures at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.

The state Department of Labor & Industries said in a news release Wednesday that the agency began an investigation and inspection after a correctional officer tested positive for COVID-19 in June and died.

The agency said that was one of three deaths among corrections staffers there who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Corrections data shows four Washington corrections officers have died after contracting the virus with the fourth being a Monroe Correctional Complex employee.

Department of Corrections Secretary Cheryl Strange said she has called for a review of Stafford Creek’s safety culture, The Seattle Times reported.

“We care deeply about the safety of staff and incarcerated persons and this compliance issue … is troubling,” Strange said in prepared remarks.

Since the inspection, the agency has stepped up mask and physical distancing enforcement and taken other measures to separate personnel, according to Labor and Industries.

In an email Wednesday, a Corrections spokesperson said six disciplinary investigations had been opened at Stafford Creek for workers allegedly failing to follow coronavirus regulations.

The agency has taken disciplinary action against two staffers so far for not following COVID-19 measures, according to spokesperson Rachel Ericson.

Labor and Industries fined the correctional facility $9,000 in June for mask use and social distancing violations.