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AGO 1950 No. 323 - August 21, 1950
AGO Opinion Header Image
Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

AUTHORITY OF BOARD OF PRISON TERMS AND PAROLES TO GRANT PAROLE TO MINOR FEMALES COMMITTED TO THE WASHINGTON STATE PENITENTIARY.

The Board of Prison Terms and Paroles, in its sound discretion, would be justified in paroling female prisoners committed, to the Washington State Penitentiary where conditions are similar to those covered in opinion of Attorney General issued January 21, 1948, to the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles.

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                                                                 August 21, 1950

Board of Prison Terms and Paroles
700 County-City Building
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                                      Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 323

Attention:  Mr. John J. Quine, Member

Gentlemen:

            We have your letter of August 11, 1950, in which you ask the following question:

            Since the state does not have a reformatory for women, may the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles parole female prisoners committed to the Washington State Penitentiary where conditions are similar to those covered in the opinion of the Attorney General issued January 21, 1948, to the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:

            The Board of Prison Terms and Paroles, in its sound discretion, would be justified in paroling female prisoners committed to the Washington State Penitentiary where conditions are similar to those covered in the opinion of the Attorney General issued January 21, 1948, to the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Your letter reads as follows:

            "January 21, 1948 your office issued an opinion based upon your interpretation of Laws of 1935, chapter 114, section 2 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 10249-2), as amended by Laws of 1947, chapter 92, regarding minors committed to Washington State Reformatory and the board's authority to grant parole without regard to the limitations set forth in that section.

            "Since the state of Washington does not have a reformatory for women, the courts from necessity, if incarceration is determined, sentence women to the penitentiary‑-minor girls included.

            "May we have your opinion whether or not the board may take the broad view and apply your opinion of January 21, 1948 to cover minor girls committed to Washington State Penitentiary."

            The laws pertaining to the State Penitentiary are to be found in sections 10210 to 10240 Rem. Rev. Stat.  The laws pertaining to the State Reformatory are to be found in sections 10280-1 to 10280-16 Rem. Rev. Stat.  The law pertaining to the parole of prisoners, and particularly to the Board of Prison Terms and  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Paroles, may be found in sections 10249-1 to 10249-27 Rem. Rev. Supp., and chapter 220, Laws of 1939; chapter 92, Laws of 1937; chapter 114, Laws of 1935; chapter 125, Laws of 1939; chapter 155, Laws of 1945; chapter 92, Laws of 1947, and chapter 47, Laws of 1947.

            Section 10280-5 Rem. Supp. 1947, provides in part:

            "The Director of Business Control, by and through the superintendent of the reformatory, shall receive all males between the ages * * *" (Emphasis supplied)

            Chapter 249, Laws of 1927 (10298-1 to 10298-17 Rem. Rev. Stat.) was an act creating the Washington State Reformatory for women.  Chapter 249, Laws of 1927, was specifically repealed by chapter 28, Laws of 1941.

            As you state in your letter, the State of Washington has no reformatory for women.  As above shown, all inmates of the reformatory must be "males." (10280-5 Rem. Supp. 1947).  Section 10249-2 Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp., as amended by section 1, chapter 92, Laws of 1947 (10249-2 Rem. Supp. 1947), contains the proviso which was construed in our opinion to your office, dated January 21, 1948, such proviso reading:

            "* * *Provided further, That any inmate of the reformatory who is under the age of twenty-one (21) years at the time of the commission of the crime may be paroled by the board without regard to the limitations set forth in this section."

            Our opinion of January 21, 1948, held that the statute:

            "* * * gives the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles the authority to paroleany inmate of the reformatory who was under the age of twenty-one years at the time of the commission of the crime without regard to the limitation set forth in thatsection."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Manifestly, the "reformatory" referred to in the above quotation from section 10249-2 must relate to the Reformatory at Monroe, Washington, because that is the only reformatory in the state of Washington.  Therefore, if we are to construe the above mentioned statutes relating to the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles in a literal sense we cannot hold that your board would have any right to apply the above quoted section to a female prisoner.

            Section 4, chapter 114, Laws of 1935, as amended by section 1, chapter 142, Laws of 1939 (10249-4 Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp.), provides in part:

            "The Board of Prison Terms and Paroles shall make all necessary rules and regulations to carry out the provisions of this act not inconsistent therewith, and may provide the forms of all documents necessary therefor."  (Emphasis supplied).

            Manifestly, there is no sound reason why male inmates of the reformatory should be subject to parole as stated in our opinion of January 21, 1948, and that the same privilege should be withheld from female prisoners.  If the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles should see fit to make a rule or regulation to cover the case you mention and were to, in such rule and regulation, accord such same right to female prisoners as is now accorded to male prisoners, it would seem to us that no one could successfully maintain the position that such a regulation was inconsistent with either the various acts creating the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles or the interpretation thereof by the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles.  Our understanding is that the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles has never issued any formal rules and regulations, but has contented itself by making formal orders in each individual case.

            It is unnecessary to city cases, which are numerous, to the effect that the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles has a very broad and great discretion in the issuance of paroles.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            We therefore believe that the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles, in its sound discretion, would be justified in applying the principles of our opinion of January 21, 1948, to a female prisoner now incarcerated at the State Penitentiary at Walla Walla.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

GEORGE DOWNER
Assistant Attorney General

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