How the Washington State DOC is Stepping Up for Veterans

By CN Staff

In a month celebrating Veterans Day, it was fitting that Rachel Ericson of the Washington State Department of Corrections has shared some compelling info on how the department is supporting veterans, not only among its many staffers but within its incarcerated population as well.

Employing and Supporting Veterans at Corrections

Currently, approximately 15% of the Washington State Department of Corrections roughly 8,000 staff members have identified themselves as veterans. For years, the Washington State Department of Corrections has been a proud employer of veterans. As part of regular recruitment efforts, Corrections regularly participates in job fairs, whether in person or virtually.

In addition to standard job fairs, the department also makes the effort to recruit veterans by holding a particularly special class of job fairs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and other military bases in the state. Allowing the department to speak with our nation’s service members as they look to transition to civilian life and employment and providing an additional opportunity to family members and spouses of veterans as well, who may be looking for employment.

In addition to hiring veterans, the department is also committed to identifying Incarcerated Veterans among its incarcerated population to support successful transition back into the community. Approximately 8.5% of individuals incarcerated in our prisons have identified themselves as veterans, and while almost 7% of those on community supervision are veterans.

In 2019, Stafford Creek Corrections Center launched the first Washington prison-based American Legion Post, giving veterans incarcerated at Stafford the ability to hold meetings, discuss current events and track congressional bills related to veterans.

A Veteran employed in CCD

Kimberly Allen, a Community Corrections Program Manager for the Community Corrections Division (CCD), recently celebrated her 28th anniversary of employment with the department. She started with the agency as a Community Corrections Officer, working with individuals on supervision in the community.

The Community Corrections Division has the vital role of supervising active caseloads of formerly incarcerated people in communities across Washington. Those employed as part of community corrections provide guidance, support and evidence-based program opportunities for all individuals returning to the community.

Allen served 4 years as part of the Air Force, before receiving an honorable discharge and moving on to join Washington Corrections. “I had experience in law enforcement, and wanted something similar, but different from patrol,” Allen said. “I liked the structure of Corrections, the relationship with law enforcement and working with individuals in the community.”

Allen says that living overseas helped broaden her perspective of diversity in a way she had not previously experienced, growing up in a small town in Washington. Her experience in the military, coupled with her desire to help others gave her a greater empathy for individuals on her caseload.

Occasionally, she would have veterans on her caseload, and her understanding of the lack of resources and the challenges that exist for veterans returning to civilian life allowed her to both help and relate in a different capacity.

Currently, she works hard to fulfill many needs her section has, from reviewing policy and legislation, to creating and delivering training, her years of experience, both with Corrections and the military, have made her a valuable resource and knowledge base for those seeking guidance and resources.

In addition, she participates regularly in critical incident reviews. This is a type of risk review after an incident occurs. For example, someone on supervision may have an incident with law enforcement. The critical incident review allows for an analysis of what went well, areas of improvement and how the agency can improve procedures, policies, training and practices.

“With Corrections, I found a similar camaraderie as I experienced in the military,” Allen said. “The structure, being held to a higher standard and looking to the mission are important values in both the military and Corrections.”

Corrections is committed to honoring the service of veterans, regardless of whether under its employment or in its care and custody. The example veterans have set for their generation and the generations to follow is one of dedication, honor, and immeasurable sacrifices.