If your loved one is in jail
Navigating the first few days
Jails can be confusing and frightening. But you can provide support if your loved one has been arrested and held in jail. Here’s some information that will help you navigate the first few days after your loved one has been incarcerated. If you have questions, please call us at 206-296-7662.
How to find out if someone is in a King County jail
Your loved one could be in the King County Correctional Facility (KCCF) in downtown Seattle or the Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent. To find out where they are located take the following steps:
- Visit the Jail Inmate Lookup Service (JILS).
- Search by name or by seeing a list of all people booked within the last 24 hours.
If your loved one is in jail, you can see what jail they’re in, when they were booked, what they are being investigated for, and, if bail has been set, what the bail amount is.
What happens at booking
- Generally, when a person is booked into jail, they’re photographed, fingerprinted, and searched. Their clothes and personal belongings are taken away and put in a bag (an inventory sheet lists the contents of the bag).
- Usually, they’re interviewed by what’s called a PR screener (“PR” stands for “personal recognizance,” which means a written promise to return to court). The PR screener tries to contact relatives to confirm details the arrested person has provided. This is a chance to support your loved one – by providing information about where your loved one lives, their school, their job or job training, their family and friends, and their community support.
- Usually, they’re also interviewed about any medical or mental health issues.
- They’re then assigned to a housing unit within the jail.
How to set up accounts for communication, food, and incidentals
Telephone calls, video visits, and emails cost money, as do snacks and other incidentals. There are many ways to deposit money in your loved one’s account. Most require credit cards or debit cards—although the payment kiosks at the jails and walk-in retailers take cash. All of these services charge a fee for use.
- Internet Deposits: Using the internet and your credit card, you may deposit funds into an inmate's account. Detailed information is available from Access Corrections, a company that provides these services.
- Access Corrections app: You can also download the Access Corrections app. Go to Access Corrections to download the app.
- Payment Kiosks: Payment kiosks, which take cash, are in the reception areas in the MRJC and the KCCF. There are also “Access Corrections” payment kiosks in other parts of the state. Go to Access Corrections and click on “Payment Kiosk Locations” to learn more.
- Walk-in Retailer: You can register at Cash Pay Today, which enables you to make a cash deposit at a number of different stores, including 7 Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, and Walgreens.
- Telephone Deposits: Call 866-345-1884. Using your credit card, you can deposit funds into an incarcerated person’s account.
- Money orders or cashier’s checks: Money orders or cashier's checks may be added to an inmate’s account by US mail. Do not send cash or personal checks. You must include the inmate’s name and booking number (or B/A for “book of arrest”). Locate an inmate’s B/A number via the Jail Inmate Lookup Service (JILS).
Here's the mailing address for the Seattle jail (KCCF):Name of person (name they were booked under)
B/A number (you can get this from the jail's inmate lookup website)
500 Fifth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104
Here's the mailing address for the Kent jail (MRJC):Name of person (name they were booked under)
B/A number (you can get this from the jail's inmate lookup website)
620 W. James St.
Kent, WA 98032
How to get in touch with your loved one
Once your loved one is in a housing unit, you can begin communicating with them via video, telephone, and email—though you must first make sure they have enough money in their accounts. Your loved one cannot receive a call but can place a call. Please note: All phone calls and video visits are recorded. Prosecutors frequently listen to these recordings to gather evidence that can then be used in court. Remind your loved one not to talk to you about their case. Emails are also read before being delivered to the recipient.
- Video and telephone calls are through a company called Securus. Currently, each person in jail can place two free phone calls a week. After that, the cost is 13 cents/minute. Each person gets six free video visits a week (a maximum of one a day).
- You can email your loved one. They cannot reply to your emails, however. This, too, is via an account at Access Corrections.
- It’s really important for you to know that your communications with your loved one are not confidential. That means that anyone at the jail, the prosecutor’s office and even the judge can listen to and know what you and your loved one talk about.
How to visit your loved one
There is currently no visitation allowed at the two jails due to COVID restrictions.
How the court system works during those first few days
If your loved one is arrested, it does not necessarily mean they have now been charged with a crime. There is often an initial “investigation” period after arrest but before any charges are filed, during which the prosecutor’s office reviews police reports and other materials to decide what criminal charges, if any, they will file. Here’s the process:
- After your loved one is arrested, they are entitled to a hearing before a judge within 48 hours for a determination of whether there was probable cause to arrest. This is called a “first appearance.”
- If the judge finds there is not probable cause for a charge, your loved one must be released immediately without any conditions (though the prosecutor can continue to investigate the case in order to eventually file charges).
- If the judge determines there is probable cause, the prosecutor may ask that your loved one be held in jail for 72 hours while they investigate what crime, if any, to charge. Your loved one will be represented by a public defender at this hearing. The prosecutor may ask the judge to set bail at a certain amount; your public defender can argue for your loved one's release or a lower bail amount than the prosecutor is asking for.
- At the conclusion of the first appearance hearing, the judge will set a return date, or "second appearance," to be held at the end of the 72-hour period by which the prosecutor must decide whether to file charges. If a person has been held in jail and the prosecutor—at the end of 72 hours—declines to file charges, the person will be released without conditions. If the person was released at first appearance hearing, they will return out of custody for this second appearance to learn if the prosecutor is filing charges at this time. If so, they will either be given another date to return or may in some cases be arraigned and asked to enter a plea.
- If the prosecutor does not file charges during this 72-hour period (whether your loved one was in jail or not), your loved one can still face charges by the prosecutor weeks, months, even years later. It depends on the statute of limitations for the alleged crime, the maximum amount of time the prosecutor has to make a charging decision.
Supporting your loved one during this process
- It makes a huge difference when family, friends, and community members show up to a first appearance. This may be the most important thing you can do for a loved one within the first few days of incarceration. Also, most judges will allow family or community members to speak in support of release and to provide information that the court should know (such as whether the client supports their family, the client’s stability around work, the names of community organizations they have been involved with, etc.).
- Where the first appearance will be held depends on several factors, including where and when they were arrested, the jail they were booked into, and the nature of the charge. Generally, if they’re being held in Seattle, their first appearance will be in one of the two courtrooms within the King County Jail in Seattle; if they’re in being held in Kent, their first appearance will be in Courtroom GB in the MRJC in Kent.
How a public defender will be assigned to your loved one
Your loved one will have a public defender when they come before a judge in their first appearance (see above). That lawyer will likely not be assigned permanently to the case and will only be their lawyer for this first appearance. If your loved one remains in custody and charges are filed, another public defender will automatically be assigned to represent them for all future court hearings as their lawyer for the case.
Your loved one’s lawyer can talk to you only if your loved one has given permission for the lawyer to do so. That permission can be in writing or spoken but must come directly from your loved one to their lawyer and not through friends or family.
Please remember to not ask your loved one any details about the case when you speak to them over the phone. All telephone conversations with people in jail are recorded and can be used as evidence by the prosecutor. If you have questions about the case, and if your loved one has given their public defender permission to speak to you, it’s best to get your questions answered by talking to the lawyer.
For most charges, bail will not be set until your loved one sees a judge at their first appearance. However, for certain misdemeanor offenses, bail may be set on a predetermined schedule prior to that first hearing. You will be able to see on the Jail Inmate Lookup Service what bail, if any, has been set. If your loved one is arrested on a misdemeanor warrant, they might be able to get released by paying the amount on the warrant.
The Northwest Community Bail Fund provides cash bail for people charged with crimes who are unable to afford bail and find themselves incarcerated while awaiting routine court appearances in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties in Washington state. To request bail for your loved one, go to the “Request Bail Assistance” drop-down menu and select “family/friends.”