The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View/Snohomish County Corrections


Jail reforms starting now

An innate right to ethical treatment and respect is the essence of human dignity. It's a definition that needs to be practiced and repeated like a mantra by every corrections officer, medical staffer and employee at the Snohomish County Jail.
As The Herald's Diana Hefley and Scott North report, a just-issued operational assessment by the National Institute of Corrections underscores the need for a series of reforms to produce a safer, more humane jail. Most of the reforms are manageable policy and procedural tweaks that Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary is likely to embrace (a promising signal that Trenary posted the full report on the sheriff's website.) Changing an organizational culture, however, will take some doing.
Training is the cornerstone, numero uno in retooling a culture that mortars professional behavior. Even Florida requires 22 weeks of academy training. As the report states, "It is difficult to not judge the Washington program as deficient. This is especially so when there seems to be no training in 'direct supervision' and little relative to the mentally ill in jail."
Observers Timothy Ryan and John Ford highlight the case of a mentally ill inmate in an observation cell. Ryan and Ford notice the inmate on a Wednesday and see him in the same observation cell on a Friday. He had been "recalcitrant," staffers said, and still hadn't been booked (Think Ken Kesey meets Kafka.)
"Mental health should be on hand to evaluate, almost immediately, to assess his condition and make appropriate treatment recommendations," they write. "Early intervention by mental health staff should reduce the possibility of a use of force and the improper housing of the mentally ill inmate."
Amen to that. A proactive response ensures the dignity and care of everyone.
Formal accreditation also could safeguard services for those living with mental illness and other measures for the safety of staff and inmates. The report recommends accreditation through the "Core Jail Standards," a bare minimum.
One takeaway is that after the 2009 transfer of the jail from the executive to the sheriff's office, the "full transition remains incomplete." Trenary looks to close the circle. From the thrust of the report, Trenary might consider applying a jail version of the broken-window theory: Norms are set when you take better care of what you have.
The operative metaphor is the empty drink bottle observers saw near the facility's entrance. It was in the exact same spot two days later. Might it still be there?
From a grimy booking area, to untended rat traps, to slipshod adherence to the basics (when medical staff prescribe a therapeutic diet, "it is important that the inmate actually receive such a meal"), the little things add up to one big thing. Now, all of this must change.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.