It is located at 1313 N. 13th Avenue and is commonly known as "the Walls" among inmates of the Washington Department of Corrections. The penitentiary is sometimes known as Concrete Mama, from a book with the same title, by Ethan Hoffman and John McCoy.
Over a one year period, starting in March 2002, more than one hundred inmates and staff at the Washington State Penitentiary were infected with Campylobacter jejuni. During this period, five clusters of the infection were identified, and genetic testing indicated that all of the bacteria were indistinguishable from each other. The source of this outbreak is not known, but contamination via pigeon feces, as well as unsafe food handling procedures, were examined.[clarification needed]