January 11, 2011

Corrections, Fish & Wildlife members raise concerns about Governor's plans

The House General Government Appropriations Committee Tuesday morning took up the governor’s proposed cuts in Community Corrections and the merger of several natural resources agencies.

Judy Kuschel, a Community Corrections office in Vancouver and a member of Local 313, cautioned against the removing of “tolling,” a tool when offenders violate the terms of their supervision.

“Many offenders may choose confinement over having to prove they can remain lawful in the community,” she said. “It’s often easier to serve time in custody rather than make difficult changes to live lawfully in our community. It takes time to refer and complete the treatment programs necessary in the community to reduce recidivism.

“Finally, this decision is counterproductive in terms of message. It rewards non-compliance and will make our commitment to reducing recidivism through programming more difficult because we will have less time to achieve it.”

Tim Young, a Fish and Wildlife member of Local 443 and a member of the Federation’s Natural Resources Task Force, raised serious concerns about the natural resources merger.

The governor proposes a new Department of Conservation and Recreation that would include the State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Recreation and Conservation Office, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and law enforcement duties now performed by the Department of Natural Resources.

The Federation hasn’t taken a formal position, but the union task force survey of natural resource agency members showed that 51 percent opposed the consolidation, Young said.

Young said the members surveyed supported other efficiencies before merging, like streamlining business practices, reconciling conflicting administrative rules and laws and addressing management overhead.

“Currently these agencies are pretty well strapped and I think there’s a question about whether this is a good time to merge agencies” he said. “Merging agencies as we experienced when Fish and Wildlife were merged the focus often turns to  managing the bureaucracy rather than delivering services to the public.”

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