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Monday, December 22, 2008

One DOJ Report And One Inquest Later, Abuses Continue At The King County Jail

In March of 2008 we reported that a woman who was recovering from reconstructive surgery was denied medical care while at the King County Jail despite just having surgery a few days before her arrest under allegations of shoplifting.

In that case the jail staff had verified that she was under a doctor's care and had valid doctor's instructions for care of that wound, but the staff ignored her requests anyway. Instead almost letting her go into shock while left in a cell with a small blanket and none of the medications she had been prescribed by her doctor.

It appears that this kind of mistreatment is still ongoing for people detained at the King County Jail. We've just received another complaint that is almost identical to the one we received in March, but this time it's from a woman who has actually worked as a corrections officer elsewhere... and she says she's never witnessed mistreatment like what routinely occurs at the King County Jail in all her years as a corrections officer.

She starts her story with her driving home just a few days after having major abdominal surgery, with her stomach still sutured, when she says she was pulled over by the police. At first she was confused about why she was stopped although she admits going maybe 2 mph over the limit.

During the stop and even after she was taken into custody she was never told by the officer why she was pulled over and never read her rights. Later she discovered that she was pulled over and arrested that night because she had mistakenly missed a court date for a traffic violation, a court date that she was not notified of, and because of this she was unknowingly driving with a suspended license as a result.

After she was arrested she was taken to the King County Jail. This is where she claims that she repeatedly told police officers and jail staff that she had recently had surgery and that she needed to be careful as to not reopen the surgical wound or cause any internal damage. Instead of at least looking to see if she was telling the truth, guards and officers alike ridiculed and made fun of her instead. All of this even though she offered to show them the sutures that were still running across her abdomen.

Once booked into the jail the abuse didn't stop. She told us that she was denied food and water for 10 hours and denied even a basic medical examination. Eventually, though, she was finally seen by a nurse, but even after that they continued to refuse her reasonable requests for things like some additional bedding to protect the surgical site, use of a wheelchair, assistance with getting to and from the restroom, or even the medication that she had been prescribed by her doctor.

In the letter she sent us she described her treatment as "The most egregious, inhumane treatment I've ever experienced by another human being." And that as a former corrections officer with a degree in Criminal Justice that "…despite all of the corruption and verbal and physical abuse I was subjected to while a CO, I can say with a clear conscience that I have NEVER EVER treated an inmate the way I was treated by the police officers and the King County Jail staff… their behavior toward me was absolutely inexcusable, inhumane, and totally unjustified."

She claims that she was never rude or belligerent to anyone during her arrest and the time she spent in the jail. She also claims that shortly after being released she went back to her surgeon in order to make certain that there wasn't any damage done and was admitted to the hospital for a few days. Her doctors have told her that they hope she files a civil suit over her mistreatment by the police and the King County Jail, and she says she intends to do just that.

In November of 2007 the United States Department of Justice issued a scathing report on their investigation into the King County Jail for alleged civil rights violations that continue to occur at that facility under the direction of King County DAJD director Reed Holgeerts and King County Executive Ron Sims.

That report detailed life threatening abuses that were termed as egregious violations of detainee civil rights which included a lack of reasonable medical care. The US DOJ Civil Rights division and the King County government are still in talks over whether the county will address the violations that were discovered at the jail, over a year after those findings were made public.

In addition to that, last week marked the end to an inquest into the gruesome 2007 death of a detainee named Lynn Dale Iszley at the King County Jail. Iszley's death due to lack of medical care was meticulously detailed and cited in the DOJ report that was released in November of 2007, over a full year ago.

That inquest, lasting only two days, came to the same conclusion that the Department of Justice investigators did, that the jail was ultimately responsible for that death due to a decided lack of appropriate medical care... that Iszley's death could have, and should have, been prevented.

Apparently, judging by the reports we received, many of which we don't publish at the request of the victim, the county has decided not to address the civil rights violations that were found during that investigation and it remains unclear whether the US DOJ will do anything to force the county to comply with their recommendations to address the deadly problems in that jail since it's been over a year since their report was released and almost a full year past the deadline provided for King County to address the problems found at their jail, which they clearly have refused to do.

Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit is in the works against the King County Jail for several detainees who contracted potentially lethal MRSA infections due to the lack of medical care in the jail. No court date has been set yet in that action, but it is restricted only to detainees who contracted MRSA and the lawyer in that action, Ed Budge, has told Sarah that he cannot represent her for her case, like others who were denied medical care but didn't contract MRSA.

The woman who contacted us and the others harmed by abuses in that jail, some of which were later found innocent of their charges, have pledged to continue their attempts to gain legal assistance and claim that they won't sit by quietly and let the county get away with violating their basic human rights like this, especially while the jail continues to mistreat other pre-trial detainees.

Meanwhile, King County Executive Ron Sims, who is currently in talks to gain a position in President-Elect Obama's administration, still refuses to address the problems that have been detailed to him by the DOJ, an inquest he himself asked for, and by the numerous reports in the media. Instead he has suggested all along that detainees don't have civil rights to protect… even those who are later found innocent of any crimes they might have been accused of committing.

Ultimately, the deadly problems at the King County Jail aren't due to just one guard, one police officer, or one doctor. It is a systemic problem that only continues to exist with, and due to, the express disregard for human rights and constitutional rights by the county administration itself. Until King County has a new administration, these problems will only continue to expose the county to liability and bad press while potentially innocent detainees continue to be exposed to deadly conditions at that jail.


NothingButTheTruth said...

Who will be charged for his death? Someone needs to get locked up and get treated as they treated Mr. Iszley. Mr. Iszley was not a killer. Someone or more then one at the King County Jail is though.

Packratt said...

Thank you for the comment, but sadly I doubt anyone will be charged for Iszley's tragic death. One person resigned over it, but at this point it really seems as though that will be the extent of what happens, I'm sorry to say.

Is that frustrating? Yes.

The problem is that society has little concern for the rights of the detained, whether they are pre-trial or post-conviction... that is, at least, until they are detained and go through it themselves.

But, sadly, most don't anticipate that they'll ever have to endure it, but there's always that possibility that they could be, rightfully or falsely, accused of a crime.

It's something I try to get people to realize when I argue that people must not let their passion for vengeance overwhelm their logic and sense of justice.

But, Americans still love to make jokes about prisoner mistreatment, and the issue of mistreatment barely ever makes the news. So it's a long road uphill for those like me who argue that people like Iszley deserve justice too, and he deserves it for all of our sakes, not just his.

Thank you again for taking the time to comment, I do appreciate it.

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