Editor’s note: This editorial has been updated to correct and clarify that a letter sent to the Governor’s Office by local police chiefs requesting further investigation at Green Hill School was not sent to the Washington state Attorney General’s Office. Gov. Jay Inslee declined to refer the matter to the state Attorney General's Office.
As a community, we cannot overlook the alarming mishandling of the Green Hill School situation by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
It’s time to shed more light on the troubling incidents at Green Hill, where a staff member allegedly provided narcotics to a student inmate, overdoses were concealed rather than reported to law enforcement and evidence was stashed away in lockers.
In September, The Chronicle highlighted the issue after a search warrant revealed 114 bags of contraband, including illegal and controlled substances, cellphones, vape pens, improvised knives, and documents arranging illegal drug transactions.
Shockingly, local law enforcement — the Chehalis Police Department, the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET) and Centralia police — had to obtain a search warrant to compel school officials to turn over the confiscated items, showcasing a blatant lack of cooperation.
The Department of Children and Youth Services (DCYF), responsible for overseeing Green Hill, has a track record of poor management, resulting in numerous multi-million dollar lawsuits.
Despite these alarming signs, Inslee dismissively “declined further investigation” and failed to refer the case to the Washington state Attorney General’s Office after being asked by local law enforcement in a letter to investigate further, claiming the state had implemented improved security practices.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office reached out to The Chronicle to clarify the letter was sent to Inslee’s office and not that of the attorney general after previous incorrect reporting to the contrary. Inslee’s office did not forward the letter to the attorney general, a spokesperson from the office said.
In his pursuit to succeed Inslee as governor, we hope Ferguson will take the time to comment on the situation at Green Hill School and use his platform to call for additional investigation.
State Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, is calling for an independent investigation, criticizing the governor’s attempt to downplay the issue as a mere miscommunication.
“The governor’s focus on implementing security measures fails to address the pervasive mismanagement within his agencies, indicating a lack of accountability for the well-being of those under his charge,” Braun wrote.
Incidents beyond the drug-related discoveries raise serious concerns. The May 30, 2023, letter from city mayors and police chiefs urged Inslee to refer the matter to the Washington state Attorney General’s Office to investigate Green Hill School’s ongoing practices and procedures.
This plea stemmed from an inmate’s overdose, a former inmate stealing a vehicle and engaging in a drive-by shooting, and a security officer involved in illegal activities.
The governor’s office’s refusal to refer the matter for further investigation demonstrates a troubling pattern of negligence. Despite Child Protective Service complaints and a JNET detective’s request for seized fentanyl pills, the Green Hill facility failed to cooperate, leading to the execution of a search warrant on Aug. 31, 2023.
The dismissive response by Inslee and his failure to address the systemic issues at Green Hill and DCYF are unacceptable. The wellbeing of student inmates is compromised, and the integrity of the juvenile justice system in Washington state is at risk. The governor must be held accountable for his oversight.
The fulfillment of Sen. Braun’s call for an immediate, thorough and independent investigation is imperative to restore public trust and ensure the safety of those within the juvenile justice system.
The citizens of Washington deserve leaders who prioritize the safety and wellbeing of those under his care.