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Following Snohomish Jail Deaths, Feds Point To Overcrowding

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Flickr Photo/Still Burning

A new federal report says overcrowding and under-staffing puts the health of Snohomish County Jail inmates at risk. The report comes after eight deaths at the Everett, Wash., facility in the past three years.

The jail has about 1,200 inmates. There is one doctor who works three days a week. Even with 16 nurses and two nurse practitioners, under-staffing is bad enough at the jail that the health and safety of both inmates and staff are at risk, according to the new report from the National Institute of Corrections.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office runs the jail and requested the study of health care inside the facility.

Among other problems

  • There are too few staff on hand to keep watch on suicidal inmates.
  • Initial health screening interviews are conducted within full view and hearing of other staff, inmates and arrestees in the booking area.
  • Inmates are packed so densely that diseases can spread like wildfire.

“Every bed is full, and we have people in what are called our ‘boats’ – portable beds or cots,” Sheriff Ty Trenary said. “So walkway areas, common areas, are instead being used for people to sleep in.”

Trenary said the jail has enough staff to adequately handle just 600 to 700 inmates.

He said the county has been working on the report’s recommendations since it learned of them in September.

The jail has hired five new nurses and eight new corrections deputies. Trenary said they aim to reduce the population by about 200 inmates, in part by keeping non-violent offenders, especially the mentally ill, out of jail.

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