DAJD Could Do More to Prevent Deaths in Jails, Disciplines With Racial Bias, Report Finds

by Carolyn Bick


A new report by the King County Auditor’s Office has revealed that the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) faces serious problems within its adult jails, including deaths that the department “could do more to prevent,” excessive uses of force that go under-reported, and subjecting Black people — particularly Black women — to discipline and distinctly higher levels of security based on faulty risk-assessment systems. At the same time, the report noted that the DAJD’s response appears to suggest that while the department agreed with the report’s findings, it may not change its policies or implement any recommendations made in the report. In some cases, the report said, it does not appear as though the DAJD understands why it needs to change these policies.

King County Auditor Kymber Waltmunson and a team of researchers from the King County Auditor’s Office (KCAO) who worked on the report presented the findings in a report to the King County Council’s Law and Justice Committee in a virtual meeting on Tuesday, April 6. The 80-page, in-depth report Waltmunson presented was based on data the KCAO had reviewed, as well as interviews with both DAJD staff and incarcerated people, and included the DAJD’s response. 

KCAO Law Enforcement Audit Manager Brooke Leary said in presenting some of the data that the KCAO looked at 2,300 violent incidents, more than 100,000 bookings, 75,000 security and classification decisions, and 17,000 disciplinary actions. This is not information the DAJD has reported on publicly in the past, Leary said. Leary also said that KCAO staff who worked on the report interviewed 22 corrections officers and 16 incarcerated people.

However, Leary said, the audit team did not analyze demographic data on Hispanic and Latino populations or discuss COVID safety within the jail, as there is another “ongoing audit of COVID safety.” She later explained that the team collectively “have concerns whether the Hispanic-Latinx identifier is self-identified or identified by jail staff and whether that’s a reliable indicator of ethnicity.” Though the team did not include that data in this report’s analysis, Leary said they have since obtained some ethnicity data from DAJD but that it hadn’t thus far changed any findings or conclusions of this report.

A screenshot illustrating racial disparities in King County jails from a 2021 report by the King County Auditor’s Office.

The team also did not track data relating to non-binary people —  individuals who do not identify as either a man or a woman. Leary explained that this is due to the fact that the DAJD categorizes people as either male or female. She also said that the team was concerned that seeking to break down the data in such a way themselves would run the risk of identifying individuals within the jail system, which would violate their privacy.

The report broke down in detail several key issues within the County’s DAJD, including deaths in custody, unreliable use-of-force data, and racial disparities in both housing and discipline. While the data regarding deaths in custody spanned from 2017–2020, the analysis regarding use of force and racial disparities looked at data from 2017–2019. Overall, the report made 25 recommendations for these and other areas of concern it identified.

Some deaths in King County Jail custody may have been preventable

Over the past decade, the report said, between one and six adults have died in jail custody in King County every year. This is a higher mortality rate than the national average but is on par with Washington State’s average. Still, “[s]ome of these deaths may have been preventable,” the report said.

A screenshot illustrating racial disparities in King County jails from a 2021 report by the King County Auditor’s Office.

The most common manner of death within the jails was natural, the report said, but this does not mean that the DAJD could not have done anything to prevent them, based on how the report defined a “natural death.” 

“This research categorizes suicides, drug overdoses or withdrawals, accidents, or any death in the first 72 hours in custody as jail-attributable deaths,” the report said. “Using this definition, 64 percent of deaths in King County adult jails were jail-attributable between 2017 and December 2020.”

One of the death prevention measures the report recommended the DAJD take was increased security checks. In 2019, the report stated, the DAJD disciplined seven officers who did not complete security checks — sometimes, on multiplel occasions — and falsified records saying they completed them. In six of the seven cases, the officer in question “violated Code of Conduct 1.00.047 Causing Loss or Injury, which includes endangering the safety of others through carelessness.”

“Internal investigations data does not specify what losses missed security checks led to; however, disciplinary actions taken suggest that DAJD takes these violations seriously,” the report said. It did not detail what disciplinary actions had been taken, but the Emerald has reached out to the DAJD to ask.

In the April 6 meeting, DAJD Dir. John Diaz said that he’s been focused on “the need for security checks and how important they are” since coming to the DAJD in 2019. He said he has taken a “much more disciplinary approach, when necessary” and that DAJD staff have been going through training.

“We have reduced the amount of security check violations significantly, but … there are people that have been separated from the organization for example,” Diaz said. “It is part of our core mission, and this is one that we will continue to work on extremely hard.”

“[DAJD Internal Investigations Unit] IIU reviews all cases that internal and external parties bring to its attention but does not conduct routine oversight,” the report said. “Instead, DAJD command staff review logs to ensure officers document security checks at appropriate intervals.”

Report recommends routine, consistent security checks, but majority of video systems are not functional

When it comes to preventing death or violent incidents, the report said that routine, consistent checks are more reliable and accurate than those performed “sporadically.” Additional oversight would ensure that security checks happen as planned.

However, the report also noted that “[o]ne of the reasons DAJD does not currently conduct random video checks to corroborate documents that can be falsified is that under contract, DAJD can only review video recordings ‘in connection with a specific concern or a specific incident.’” 

“Another reason is that it lacks sufficient evidence to do this work consistently across locations because only 49 percent of cameras in DAJD adult facilities are able to record footage,” the report noted. Still, the report recommended that the DAJD conduct random, regular video checks “in line with department policy.”

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles asked Diaz in the April 6 meeting how the DAJD plans to address the fact that a majority of the jails’ video systems don’t work.

“We have a several-phased video project that is in place to try to upgrade our current cameras and video and also expand the number of cameras that we have available,” Diaz said. “As you can imagine, it’s an incredibly expensive endeavor, and during COVID, that work stopped.” 

Diaz said that the video system is one of the areas to which he is devoting much of his attention, but he did not give specifics about this video project. The Emerald has reached out to ask.

The report found that drug-related deaths within the jails were common. Though the death rate from drug-related incidents was in line with the state’s — 35%, which represented six deaths in DAJD’s facilities — the report found “gaps in policies and procedures, communication, and training related to drug-related deaths.”

“For example, in three of the six drug-related deaths, [Jail Health Services] JHS or DAJD noted that there was lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities for responding to medical emergencies,” the report read. “In the other three cases, JHS cited a need for better understanding of opioid withdrawal treatment.”

The report recommended that DAJD “work with Jail Health Services to develop, document, and implement annual in-service training requirements for corrections officers and healthcare staff for the identification and management of people in custody experiencing acute intoxication and withdrawal.”

The report also discussed suicide within the DAJD’s jails. All jail suicides within the DAJD happened in Downtown Seattle’s King County Corrections Facility (KCCF) in cells that weren’t “suicide proof.” Suicide is the leading cause of death in jails both in-state and nationwide, the report said. The suicides within the KCCF may have been preventable: “DAJD retrofitted the psychiatric housing unit to prevent suicide inside KCCF, but not other locations at KCCF or [Kent’s Maleng Regional Justice Center] MRJC.

“This may be because retrofitting and extra security checks are costly and unnecessary for the entire population,” the report said, going on to recommend that DAJD work with JHS to increase the number of suicide-resistant cells in areas of restrictive housing and psychiatric overflow.

This recommendation appears to be particularly important, with regard to restrictive housing, which is jail housing often used to penalize incarcerated people, separating an individual from the general population and only giving that person one hour of out-of-cell time per day. KCAO Management Auditor Grant Dailey said in the April 6 presentation to the Law and Justice Committee that “suicides occurred in locations such as restrictive housing or on the eighth floor, neither of which have suicide-resistant cells,” rather than on the seventh floor, which is KCCF’s designated psychiatric housing unit.

“Even though people with the highest known suicide risk are housed in psychiatric housing, no suicides took place on that floor between 2017 and 2020,” Dailey said.

Use of force is common, but oversight limited

In a section entitled, “Use of Force Common, Oversight Limited,” the KCAO examined data from 2017–2019. Throughout the county, the report said, “[u]ses of force are common in county jails but oversight is limited, leading to potential abuse.” The rate of use of force incidents differed between the Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent and the King County Corrections Facility (KCCF) in Downtown Seattle, with the latter using force 10 times more often than staff in the MRJC. However, staff in the MRJC used pepper spray more often than did the staff in the KCCF.

A screenshot illustrating racial disparities in King County jails from a 2021 report by the King County Auditor’s Office.

In total, the KCAO analyzed 773 uses of force from 2017–2019. However, these uses of force were limited to “only one type of force and resistance,” due to the fact that the DAJD’s systems “store use of force data in a format that does not match uses of force with corresponding resistance.” The report found that “this one-to-one scenario only happens in about one in four incidents.” 

“In other words, even with the available data, it was impossible to systematically determine if officers used proper force in 75 percent of incidents,” due to the lack of modern data systems, the report said. In order for its staff to carry out a proper, thorough review, KCAO would have to review paper forms, the report said. The report noted that the DAJD’s outdated data systems — which Diaz said in the April 6 meeting are “about four decades old” — are “slated to be replaced by the new Jail Management System.” While the report does not indicate whether the DAJD has a timeline for that, Diaz said in the April 6 meeting that he would be providing the Council with a timeline for this and all other upgrades and updates in the next several days.

It is also unclear why those paper forms have not been digitized and uploaded to a secure database in the meantime. The Emerald has reached out to the DAJD to ask about digitization.

The report said that jail staff likely used more force — in some cases potentially excessive force — than had been reported in the years it had reviewed. Despite the narrow way in which jail staff were able to report uses of force, on about 30 separate occasions, jail staff used force that was “greater than indicated by the use of force continuum, suggesting that excessive force may be more common than [DAJD’s Internal Investigation Unit] IIU data shows.”

Most of the cases involved pepper spray, the report said. In 19 of around 30 incidents, “officers pepper sprayed people who were trying to walk away, were being passive, or were responding only verbally.”

None of these cases were investigated between 2017 and 2019, but a separate incident in which an officer pepper-sprayed a person behind that person’s locked cell door “did result in a finding that the officer violated DAJD’s Code of Conduct,” according to the report.

“DAJD’s policies say that officers should not use pepper spray as a means of punishment or retaliation, including as a response to verbal abuse alone. Effective November 2019, DAJD’s Pepper Spray Policy also requires officers to get annual onshift training on the use of pepper spray,” the report read.

It is unclear whether the officer in the incident outlined above received any discipline and the report does not mention this. The Emerald has reached out to the DAJD to ask.

Lack of training may contribute to excessive use of force

The report also went into detail about jail staff’s lack of training in de-escalation tactics and hands-on training, which it said may leave officers unprepared for daily scenarios and contribute to excessive uses of force. 

The report said that it found four cases of what it called “excessive and unnecessary force,” which the report defined as “any use of force that is 1) beyond what is reasonably necessary to subdue people who are resisting or 2) any brutality or corporal punishment.”

Between 2017 and 2019, the DAJD’s IIU found four cases of excessive and unnecessary force. This was out of a documented 34 allegations, 29 of which resulted in cases that went on to be investigated by the IIU. The report did not detail what happened in the four cases in which DAJD’s IIU sustained allegations. It only said that one officer resigned, while the other three “received verbal counseling or letters of corrective counseling.”

The report said that it also found “four other allegations involving uses of force that IIU staff classified as Performance of Duty or Inattention to Duty; three of these were sustained.” Once again, the report did not detail what happened in these incidents nor did it provide definitions for the IIU staff classifications.

The Emerald has reached out to ask about the incidents outlined above.

With regard to training, the report said that the DAJD reported that it typically offers “two hours of hands-on use of force training and more than four hours of lecture-based use of force training in a year.” However, there is no state requirement for the amount of in-person training a corrections officer should receive. The report also found that the DAJD does not offer comprehensive de-escalation training — it has offered just one to three hours since 2018 (presumably per officer per year, though the report does not spell this out) — and while the State has mandated that corrections officers receive at least 40 hours of de-escalation and mental health training every three years in the future, that mandate will not kick in until 2028. Thus, the KCAO recommended that the DAJD “develop, document, and implement annual in-service training requirements for de-escalation.”

The report said that the DAJD also has no form of systemic review for its uses of force, which the KCAO recommended that it implement at least annually. The KCAO also recommended that the DAJD “develop, document, and implement annual in-service training requirements for the use of pepper spray in line with department policy.”

In response to the Emerald’s question about how to ensure officers accurately report uses of force, Leary responded in an April 7 email to clarify that the KCAO did not “make conclusions about the accuracy of reports or frequency of underreporting in our audit.”

“We do make recommendations in the report to help ensure that, going forward, DAJD has sufficient data and reporting capabilities to analyze use of force and violent incident trends to identify risks and monitor progress towards safety goals and to ensure that DAJD develops and implements a plan to use data for systematic reviews of proper use of force on at least an annual basis,” Leary said in her email.

She further clarified that “our findings are not necessarily an indication that these incidents are inaccurately reported.”

“DAJD does have paper records on each use of force and there is an internal process for reviewing each incident,” Leary said in her email. “However, not all of the information on the paper records is transferred to their electronic record-keeping systems. So while it might be possible to investigate the paper records to determine whether a specific use of force was appropriate for the level of resistance, we are saying it is not possible to use their computer data to look across multiple incidents. There were over 3,000 incidents where there was a use of force, but the computer data was not detailed enough in around 75% of those incidents to make a determination.”

Racial disparities in housing and discipline

Because of the outdated systems, the report said that it was also impossible to tell whether there were disparities in the race of incarcerated people against whom jail staff had used force. However, the report did determine that there were racial disparities in both housing and discipline, saying plainly in its introduction that “[w]e found racial disparities in discipline and housing that harm Black people and benefit White people, on average. Black people were more likely to be in higher security units, [to] get infractions for breaking the rules, and [to] spend more time in restrictive housing as punishment. Effects of these inequities can go beyond the jail and have lasting negative health impacts.” As it did to create its analysis of DAJD staff’s use of force, the KCAO reviewed housing and discipline data from 2017–2019.

The inequities Black people face within the DAJD’s jail system are due in part to systemic racism in the criminal legal system outside the DAJD’s control, the report said, but it did find “racial disproportionalities in areas more directly within DAJD’s control, such as in the decisions that determine where people are housed, whether they are cited for rule violations, and how severely they are punished for those violations.”

A screenshot illustrating racial disparities in King County jails from a 2021 report by the King County Auditor’s Office.

Because Black people are more likely to suffer negative consequences in the criminal legal system, it is more likely they will face long jail sentences, the report said. Though Black people currently make up just 7% of King County’s population, an average of more than 36% of adults jailed in DAJD facilities are Black. Moreover, the average length of time Black people spend in jail is 40% longer than any other people spend in custody, while it’s 25% percent shorter for white people than for others. Black people also often face more serious charges, have previous convictions, and have more experience with incarceration, the report said.

Though the DAJD does not have control over any of the above, the report said, the DAJD “uses these disproportionate outcomes as criteria to decide where to house people in jail, perpetuating inequities in the criminal legal and juvenile justice systems.” This includes assigning “higher risk scores to people who are Black, which leads to disproportionately putting Black people in more restrictive security levels” within the DAJD’s jails. The report said that these scores are created from a combination of two other scores: criminal involvement and management risk. 

Criminal involvement and management risk scores still rely on subjective criteria

Criminal involvement scores are created based on the person’s history with the legal system, and include the “seriousness of their charged offense, the number of previous convictions they have, as well as their incarceration experience.” Though the report said that the DAJD states that this score is “objective,” due to the fact that classification staff do not have discretion when assigning them to individual people, the report pointed out that research has shown that Black people are more likely than white people to be arrested in the United States. Once arrested, it is more likely Black people will be charged with and convicted of crimes that carry longer, more severe sentences.

A screenshot illustrating racial disparities in King County jails from a 2021 report by the King County Auditor’s Office.

“These systemic factors compound on each other to inflate the average criminal involvement score for Black people,” the report read. “On average, criminal involvement scores are 21 percent higher for Black people than for other people who are incarcerated. In contrast, this score is 13 percent lower on average for White people than for other people.”

The report said that the racial disparities inherent in the system mean that the criteria used to calculate risk cannot, therefore, produce an objective measure of a person’s risk. For instance, the report said, while the criteria are quantitative, they can’t always predict whether a person will follow the rules or act violently.

“Corrections staff noted that people with past incarceration experience may actually comply with jail rules more than others because they are more familiar with the system and the potential for punishment resulting from bad behavior,” the report said. “During interviews, corrections officers and people in custody often reported that younger people in custody were more likely to be involved in incidents because they wanted to prove themselves in the jail environment.”

The report found that the management risk score was even faultier than the criminal involvement score, as it is based on subjective criteria and left to the discretion of DAJD staff. Even though the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) in 2011 recommended that the DAJD develop objective criteria to calculate the management risk score, the DAJD did not do so. Though the NIC also recommends that jails have systems for evaluating their classification processes, the report said that the DAJD has not reviewed its management risk system since that 2011 NIC recommendation. It also has not revised its criminal involvement scoring system for more than 10 years.

“Current criteria still rely on staff subjectivity to determine, for example, if someone was ‘occasionally aggressive’ or ‘consistently defiant,’” the report read. “We found that the management risk score is on average 13 percent higher for Black people than other people, and eight percent lower on average for White people than for other people.”

DAJD “does not have control over the criminal involvement histories of those in custody, but they do decide whether and how to use such factors to set security classifications,” Leary said in the April 6 presentation.

Thus, using these faulty risk scores, DAJD puts Black people in higher security units more often than others who are incarcerated, which the report said increases their risk for negative health outcomes. DAJD facilities have four levels of classification: minimum, medium, close, and maximum. Though the NIC found no evidence in its 2011 review of the DAJD’s systems to suggest “over-classification” — putting people in higher security housing than is warranted — the report said that “the NIC did not look at the number of people in different security levels broken down by race, because it found that DAJD’s computer systems could not report that information.”

“We found that DAJD placed 29 percent of Black people in close or maximum security, compared to approximately 17 percent of people of other races,” the report said. “This is the indirect impact of the disproportionality observed in the two risk scores discussed above. Research has shown that restrictive housing, or solitary confinement, causes psychological harm and could increase the risk of death after release.”

The DAJD does not regularly review racial breakdowns by classification level, even though “[a]ccording to the NIC, overclassifying puts more dangerous people in contact with more vulnerable people, and poor classification systems can lead to more infractions and violence,” the report said.

Black people are also subject to more discipline, the report found, which often means they spend more time in restrictive housing. In restrictive housing, a person is limited to one hour per day out of their cell and is taken away from the general population. Compared with men of other races, Black men spent 24% more days in restrictive housing per infraction, while white men spent 17% fewer days in restrictive housing per infraction. Black women were subject to significantly more time in restrictive housing, spending 70% more days in restrictive housing per infraction when compared with women of other races. In contrast, white women spent 40% fewer days in restrictive housing per infraction. 

Though the report focused mainly on Black people, in the presentation on April 6, Leary noted that Indigenous people also were subjected to higher rates of restrictive housing. Indigenous women received 18% more days in restrictive housing per infraction, compared with all other women, Leary said.

“That is really disturbing to hear,” King County Councilmember and Law and Justice Committee Chair Girmay Zahilay said in the April 6 meeting, referring to the disproportionate amount of punishment in restrictive housing Black and Indigenous women face. “It’s well-documented that if you give people too much discretion, their biases can show up.”

As the report noted and as mentioned earlier in this article, most of the suicides within the KCCF took place in restrictive housing or on the jail’s eighth floor. Dailey also said in presenting some of the report’s data to the Law and Justice Committee on April 6 that “restrictive housing is correlated with a higher suicide risk” but that the KCCF’s restrictive housing unit does not have suicide-resistant cells. Based on this housing data, it would appear that Black women and men are most at-risk for committing suicide in at least the KCCF.

In the years the KCAO reviewed, on average Black people received 23% more infractions than those of other races in DAJD facilities. These infractions often carried harsher penalties compared with infractions imposed on people of other races.

A screenshot illustrating racial disparities in King County jails from a 2021 report by the King County Auditor’s Office.

“Of all infractions that corrections officers gave to Black people, 27 percent were general, and 73 percent were serious or major,” the report read. “By comparison, among infractions given to White people, 39 percent were general, and 61 percent were serious or major. Corrections officers may give Black people more severe levels of infractions due to implicit or explicit bias; having more objective distinctions and definitions about what constitutes general or serious violations may reduce racial disparities.”

But the report also found that the DAJD does not address racial disparities, “which allows systemic racism to disproportionately harm Black and Indigenous people inside the jail.” The report found that DAJD staff “do not disaggregate data by race and do not regularly monitor how often sanctions are applied or at what level of severity. Most corrections officers that we interviewed also stated that race was not a factor when it came to violent incidents in the jail. The fact that disparities exist in risk scoring, housing, and discipline while officers and staff may not perceive them suggests a lack of awareness of racial inequities.”

As of November 2020, the DAJD had yet to ever hold training on racial bias or social justice, which the report said may contribute to these inequities. In December 2020, DAJD supervisors and managers attended pro-equity workshops. The DAJD said that it would be holding equity and social justice training in 2021 and said that it had not held such training due to lack of funds.

As of November 2020, the DAJD had yet to ever hold training on racial bias or social justice, which the report said may contribute to these inequities. In December 2020, DAJD supervisors and managers attended pro-equity workshops. The DAJD said that it would be holding equity and social justice training in 2021 and said that it had not held such training due to lack of funds.

DAJD concurs with recommendations without indicating changes to its current practices

In its response to the KCAO’s report, the DAJD issued its assessments of the recommendations the KCAO had made. Those assessments, as well as a letter from King County Executive’s Office Deputy Chief Operating Officer Brenda Bauer, may be found on pages 55–75 of the report.

For the most part, the DAJD agreed or partially agreed with the KCAO’s recommendations. 

However, as the KCAO pointed out at the end of its report, “for some recommendations, DAJD concurs without indicating that it plans to change current practices, increasing the likelihood that these recommendations may not be implemented.” The DAJD also “makes comments on some recommendations suggesting that the agency does not understand what steps are necessary for implementation.”

In the section titled, “Lack of Plans for Meaningful Implementation,” the report said that the DAJD “concurs with multiple recommendations while at the same time noting that it does not plan to change existing practice, increasing the likelihood that deficiencies will continue.” The report gives several examples of where the DAJD does not appear inclined to change its practices. The Emerald has quoted the examples relevant to this article below:

“There is a risk that DAJD will not take sufficient action to address the racial disparities we identified in our report. DAJD partially concurs with Recommendations 11 and 12 but states that using its existing classification tool is critical for risk management and that an expert in correctional risk management is necessary to validate its tool. We agree that risk management is an important consideration, but it is not the only consideration when developing a classification system.”

“While DAJD concurs with Recommendation 17 to review infractions and sanctions data by race, it asserts that its own analysis of infraction data does not find significant differences in sanction length when controlled by the severity of the underlying infraction. DAJD did not share with us its own analysis; however, the agency’s assertion is inconsistent with our findings of clear racial disparities in sanctions for serious infractions. Re-running an analysis that does not detect racial disparities will not meet the standard for implementing this recommendation.”

“DAJD concurs with Recommendation 23 but indicates it will not implement it, which means that DAJD may miss opportunities to identify problematic uses of force that do not meet the basic threshold for review. DAJD notes that it reviews force regularly through its Use of Force Review Board. The review board does not have time to review the hundreds of uses of force that happen each year in its monthly meetings. The group is only required to review uses of force involving ‘serious or unexplained injuries,’ ‘hard impact head strikes,’ or force involving ‘apparent violations’ of policy. By using data improvements from the Jail Management System as we recommend, DAJD can strategically identify cases for review by its board.”

The report also states that the DAJD has “misinterpreted” some of the KCAO’s recommendations in that it has stated that “additional resources or facilities are necessary for implementation” of certain recommendations. It goes on to give several examples of where the DAJD would not have to create additional facilities or new resources, which appears to suggest that making changes is not as burdensome as the DAJD appears to believe.

DAJD Director John Diaz said in the April 6 meeting that “we took every one of those recommendations seriously” and that “there is going to be a written plan — timelines, project managers, schedules, and, unfortunately, budget, also, for some … of these recommendations.”

“We also plan … on bringing in national experts and local universities to help us in some of these areas. There were times where maybe we had a disagreement about the methodology, we didn’t have a question about the question that needed to be asked,” Diaz said. “This will all be coming out of my office with a regular cadence of updates on the report to ensure that every one of these questions is being looked at very carefully.”

Diaz said that the King County “Council and the Executive [Dow Constantine] have really been pushing hard for quite a while on reimagining what this criminal legal system looks like.” He said that the DAJD facilities see “the disproportionality” every day but that “we have little control over who walks in our door.”

As the Emerald reported in February, top Seattle Police Department (SPD) officials have regularly been asking DAJD staff to override the County’s current COVID booking protocols that are meant to keep people safe in order to book nonviolent protestors. Additionally, in response to King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski’s question at the April 6 meeting regarding whether most of the KCCF’s bookings come from SPD, Diaz said that though SPD bookings have diminished since the pandemic hit, “our biggest customer is [still] the City of Seattle.”

In addition to the plan generally outlined above, Diaz said that the office would be “doing as much work as we can.” He said that the Washington State Academy for Corrections Officers had recently increased its training from four weeks to 10 weeks, beginning in July 2021, and that there is a new eight-hour course for corrections officers. He said that supervisors and commanders would be going through the eight-hour course with “the idea” the other corrections staff would eventually go through it, too. As of this writing, to the Emerald’s best knowledge, it is still unclear what that timeline would look like.

Towards the end of the initial presentation, before Diaz spoke, Leary mentioned specifically that “while DAJD concurred with some of these recommendations, they did not concur with the recommendation to remove day ranges or clarify when to use numbers in the range” to lessen the likelihood that jail staff will mete out restrictive housing punishment due to racial bias.

“This means the risk will remain that two people written up for the same rule violation could be sanctioned with different amounts of days, depending on staff discretion, with no guiding criteria for when it should be the lesser or harsher punishments,” Leary said of the DAJD’s disagreement with the KCAO’s recommendation. “We want to be clear: DAJD does not need to revise its sanctions to implement our recommendation, but rather they need to give staff guidance on how to apply sanctions to ensure consistency.”

She later continued, “This is an area where King County may need to be a leader. It is unclear whether there are national standards that address disparities such as these.”

Author’s Note: Due to the in-depth nature of the report, the Emerald chose to highlight three areas of interest. More information about the report, including a summary and the report’s background, can be found here.


Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. As the Emerald’s Watchdragon reporter, they dive deep into local issues to keep the public informed and ensure those in positions of power are held accountable for their actions. You can reach them here and can check out their work here and here.

Featured Image: King County Jail, Seattle Division. Photo by Andy Engleson.

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