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Jail is no place for social distancing

This past week, due to efforts by defenders, prosecutors and courts, the jail population of King County declined from 1940 to 1717. While we applaud this progress, we remain concerned. We are concerned about the pace of release as the probability of a viral outbreak among the detained population rises. We are concerned that many who remain incarcerated while awaiting trials that continue to be postponed are there solely because they lack access to funds, and therefore they cannot shelter in place with family, but remain piled atop one another in jail dorms. We are concerned because many remain behind bars even though they are in a high-risk age group or have underlying medical conditions

We care deeply for the members of our community who are currently held in jails, and have singed on to letters to our elected officials out of concern for their safety and well-being. The danger that COVID-19 poses to the people living under the county’s care and custody cannot be overstated. “Public safety” includes those we choose to lock up in close quarters.

Following is an excerpt of our letter of demands: The full content can be viewed here.

WA State CrR/CrRLJ 3.2 allows bail to be imposed only “if no less restrictive condition or combination of conditions would reasonably assure the safety of the community.” The extraordinary circumstance of this pandemic outbreak warrant broad review of pretrial detention and the amount of bail imposed in hundreds of cases.

At a minimum we are calling for:

  1. Immediately release all individuals being held in jail pretrial due to their inability to post monetary bail of $50,000 or less to appropriate conditions of release or other alternatives to jail;
  2. Promptly identify and release individuals who are at-risk and most vulnerable to infection, including individuals who are over the age of 50 years or who have a serious medical condition (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or immune-compromised) to appropriate conditions of release or other alternatives to jail.4 Jail Health Services’ electronic medical records system should be a useful tool to rapidly identify all such inmate-patients;
  3. Enact an immediate prohibition on arresting or jailing individuals for failure to appear (FTA), legal financial obligations (LFO), or contempt of court matters;
  4. Enact an immediate prohibition on the imposition of monetary bail for any but the most serious felonies;
  5. Immediately quash all warrants for misdemeanors, violations of release conditions, unpaid fines or fees, and failure to appear (FTA) in all cases but the most serious felonies;
  6. Adopt booking criteria to prohibit the incarceration of anyone arrested for any offense but the most serious felonies;
  7. Release individuals convicted and serving local jail time with remaining sentences of 6 months or less, either outright or to all available alternatives to jail.

Please join us as we continue to put public pressure on officials.

Who to contact:

County Executive Dow Constantine: (206) 263-9600/ email
Seattle City Attorney Dan Satterberg: 206-477-1200/ email
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan: 206-684-4000/ email
SPD Chief Carmen Best: 206-625-5011/ email

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johankecht: email
King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Jim Rogers: email
King County Distric Court Presiding Judge Donna Tucker: email
Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge Ed McKenna: email
Director of Jail Health Services Sean Moody: email
Director of the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention John Diaz: email
Governor Jay Inslee: 360-902-4111/email

Find your King County Council Member here.
Find your Seattle City Council Member here.
For information on contacting State legislators, click here.
For Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier click here.
For Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers email

What you can say:

Hi, my name is _____, and I am a Washington resident who is concerned about the impact of Coronavirus on people who are detained. We are calling for the immediate release of all non-violent pretrial detainees as well as detainees with at-risk health conditions. We further call for a moratorium on new arrests, bookings and cash bail for all crimes that do not have immediate impact on public safety. Public safety includes those we choose to lock up in close quarters.
Can we count on you to prevent detained people from dying during this pandemic by taking these actions?

Until we are heard and our jails are empty, Northwest Community Bail Fund will continue to purchase release for those who cannot afford their own bail. If you are able, please Donate here. As fewer bookings and detentions result from stops and arrests – let’s face it, a long-time goal of ours – we are seeing bail amounts skyrocket, along with the increasing desperation of appeals for assistance in getting loved ones out of the ticking time-bomb that our jails have become.

The Northwest Community Bail Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
EIN 83-1096468