Washington Ends Inmate Asbestos Removal Program

Washington state has ended a program that used prisoners to remove asbestos-containing material.

The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Monday that the state also has paid a fine of more than $70,000 to settle a state investigation into cleanup practices used last June at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Purdy in which the Department of Labor and Industries says workers were exposed to asbestos. The state Department of Corrections says that the decision to end the cleanup program and the settlement were unrelated, and it disputes that inmate teams suffered exposure.

The agency didn’t admit guilt as part of the settlement but agreed to do more training and buy more equipment in exchange for L&I cutting its original $141,000 penalty in half.

The 23-year-old program that paid prisoners $4 an hour to clean up the asbestos was shut down on Dec. 31.