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Monday, January 5, 2009

King County and US Department of Justice Reach Agreement on Jail Reforms

King County Executive Ron Sims and the US DOJ released details on an agreement which outlines steps that King County must take in order to address the constitutional rights abuses the US DOJ discovered during it's year-long investigation last year into jail deaths and other abuses that occurred in the King County Correctional Facility (KCCF).

The agreement, a copy of which can be read here, outlines steps the county must complete within three years or else a federal civil rights suit, to be filed by the DOJ, will move forward in federal court against the county. As part of the agreement a monitor will be assigned and has full access to the jail, detainees, and all documentation and may report any lapses to the DOJ, but not the public or press.

While Ron Sims still insists the abuses at the jail were not violations of constitutionally protected rights, the agreement asserts that the problems found were violations of detainee rights. The agreement seeks to address problems with abusive use of force, sexual abuse of detainees by guards, lack of documentation for uses of force, lack of internal investigations, medical care, suicide prevention, corrections officer training, infection prevention, and hygiene.

We will also monitor the situation and report any new abuses as we hear about them, particularly the disturbing trend of reports we've received concerning intentional denials of medical care for detainees with verifiable medical conditions and standing orders from their doctors for needed medical care.

In the late 1990's the ACLU of Washington State also filed a similar lawsuit against King County over poor conditions at the jail but failed to perform the oversight that a settlement reached in that case allowed for.

A separate class action civil suit filed by a local law firm on behalf of detainees who suffered MRSA infections due to unsanitary conditions at that facility is still planned to move ahead.

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