A look inside the Snohomish County Jail

Two Herald police reporters toured the Snohomish County Jail on Tuesday in anticipation of a federal review planned there later this year.

At least seven inmates have died at the jail since 2010. At least two of those deaths involve pending legal claims, and one internal investigation just wrapped up. County officials are particularly interested in whether medical care at the jail measures up.

Our tour guide was corrections Capt. Harry Parker, a former Alfy’s restaurant manager who’s been working at the jail since 2000.

The jail was about what you’d expect: antiseptic tunnels, people with neck tattoos staring from behind plated glass, and the smells of cleaning solutions doing their best to mask whatever the solutions have been used to disinfect.

The black round eyes of surveillance cameras are mounted to the walls and ceilings, hundreds of them. Doors slam, and the sounds of the slams echo.

Enough of that. Here’s some of what we learned from Parker:

  • Inmates’ outfits are color-coded. Most wear the green stripes. High-security inmates wear orange. Inmate workers wear red.
  • The jail houses about 1,100 inmates daily, maybe 1,250 if you count work release. About 400 inmates are there under contracts with surrounding cities and counties. Maybe a tenth of the inmates are women.
  • TVs are only in common areas. No TVs in individual cells.
  • Inmates get caught trying to bring in drugs at least every week, if not every day.
  • About 80 percent of inmates are in general population.
  • Jail staff anticipates changes within about a year to address mandates from the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. The jail already has policies guiding the confinement of people who identify as transgendered.
  • Inmates in high-security placements have their classifications reviewed every week. Each module, including administrative segregation and maximum security, has “outdoor recreation” areas. They’re pretty much concrete rooms with one wall partially made of metal grates, but they do have access to the fresh Everett air.

The federal review is supposed to be completed before the end of summer. We’ll be reporting on the results as they’re made available.

Our tour lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. As we walked into an outdoor vehicle bay on our way back to the reception room, even still surrounded by concrete and razor-wire but with blue sky above, I couldn’t help but take a deep breath.

It was good to be outside again.

More in Local News

Local police join thousands honoring slain Canadian officer

Abbotsford Const. John Davidson was killed Nov. 6 in a shootout with a suspected car thief.

Hard work is paying off for Mariner High senior

Mey Ly has excelled in school since moving here from Cambodia; she also serves as an intrepreter.

Darrington School Board race might come down to a coin flip

With a one-vote difference, a single ballot in Skagit County remains to be counted.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

No easy exit from Smokey Point shopping complex

There’s just no easy exit on this one. A reader called in… Continue reading

Lynnwood, Marysville, Sultan consider ban on safe injection sites

If approved, they would join Lake Stevens and Snohomish County, which have temporary bans.

City Council OKs initial funding for Smith Avenue parking lot

The site of the former Smith Street Mill is being developed in anticipation of light rail.

Single fingerprint on robbery note leads to arrest

The holdup occurred at a U.S. Bank branch in Lynnwood in June.

Two windsurfers rescued from Port Susan near Kayak Point

The men had failed to return to shore during Sunday’s windstorm.

Most Read