On March 24, 2020 Executive Dow Constantine announced a series of actions to quickly and safely decrease the number of adults in King County's two correctional facilities. The goal is to reduce the jail population so social distancing measures can be successfully practiced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as recommended by Public Health - Seattle and King County.
Executive Constantine signed an Executive Order suspending the Work Release Program. The Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) will also provide Jail Health Services employees with more room to isolate people who are at a high risk of severe complications. What's more, DAJD and their partners in the criminal justice system are working to provide single bunks for every person in custody, and to prioritize bed space for those who pose an imminent risk to public safety.
"We are working with every partner in the criminal justice system – courts, public defenders, prosecutors, corrections, and law enforcement – to maintain public safety and ensure the health and safety of everyone in our correctional facilities, including our employees who work on the front lines," said Executive Constantine. "Quickly and safely reducing the number of people who are in custody will provide our healthcare professionals the space they need to follow recommendations by Public Health. These emergency actions reflect our values to protect the lives and safety of every King County resident."
The Work Release Program currently operates 79 beds on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse. Most people in work release leave the facility each day to go to work or to treatment. If a program participant is arrested, the court is still able to order electronic home detention or secure detention.
Here are some actions King County will take:
- Correctional facilities will restrict the type of bookings they will accept.
- Jails will not accept people brought in for misdemeanor charges, except for misdemeanor assaults, violations of no-contact or protection orders, DUIs, sex crimes, or other charges which present serious public safety concerns.
- Jails will continue to accept people booked for felony investigations. In the meantime, jail administrators have asked all law enforcement to prioritize bookings for those who pose an imminent risk to public safety.
- King County jails no longer accept people who are arrested for violating the terms of their state Department of Corrections community supervision. People who are in county custody will be returned to state custody.
- All misdemeanor "commitment sentences" are delayed until restrictions on public gatherings are lifted. Commitment sentences are court orders that require someone who is not in custody to report to a jail at a later date to serve their sentence.
The department has also set up a dashboard that shows the results of testing, changes in daily population, and answers frequently asked questions.
Emergency precautions to ensure everyone's health and safety
Staff at the King County adult correctional facilities – the King County Correctional Facility and the Maleng Regional Justice Center – are taking emergency precautions to ensure everyone's health and safety.
Here are some emergency actions King County has taken so far:
- Cancel visitation: Public visitations are currently cancelled. This refers to both in-person visits and video visits using the on-site video kiosks. Instead, King County is offering online video visits at no cost.
- Transfer of high-risk individuals: King County is transferring anyone in custody who is not symptomatic but has a high-risk of severe COVID-19 complications. This generally refers to people in custody aged 60 or older with underlying health conditions. These people will be moved to a housing unit at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, which is more conducive to social distancing and infection protection.
- Screening: All staff members and professional visitors, such as attorneys, will be screened when they arrive at correctional facilities. There will also be enhanced screening in pre-booking areas with Jail Health Services employees, to conduct further evaluations if someone exhibits symptoms before booking begins.
- Sanitation: King County staff will increase cleaning at all correctional facilities.