The Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent houses one of two King County jails. FILE PHOTO

The Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent houses one of two King County jails. FILE PHOTO

King County suspends work release program

Effort taken to reduce jail population for safety of everyone during COVID-19 pandemic

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2020 10:14am
  • News

King County Executive Dow Constantine on Tuesday signed an Executive Order suspending the Work Release Program, one of several actions the county is taking to decrease the number of people who are in custody as quickly and safely as possible so the staff can ensure the health of everyone in correctional facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention has already decreased the number of adults incarcerated at its jails in Seattle and Kent (Maleng Regional Justice Center) by more than 300 over the past few weeks, from 1,940 on March 1 to 1,638 on March 24. The goal is to get the population at King County’s two adult correctional facilities to about 1,200 to provide single bunks for everyone in custody as recommended by Public Health – Seattle & King County. It also will provide Jail Health Services employees with more room to isolate people who are at a higher risk of severe complications.

“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,” Constantine said in a news release from his office. “Quickly and safely reducing the number of people who are in custody will provide our health care 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 in Seattle. Most people in work release leave the facility each day to go to work or to treatment. If someone in the program is arrested, the court will still be able to order electronic home detention or, in some cases, secure detention at a correctional facility.

Under the direction of Constantine, the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention is working with their partners in the criminal justice system – courts, the King County Department of Public Defense, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the state Department of Corrections, and law enforcement – to prioritize bed space for those who pose an imminent risk to public safety.

Here are some of the 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 a serious public safety concern.

* Jails will continue to accept people booked for felony investigations for now. In the meantime, jail administrators have asked all law enforcement to prioritize bookings for those who pose an imminent risk to public safety.

* The Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention will delay all misdemeanor “commitment sentences” until restrictions on public gatherings are lifted. These 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 people who will be impacted are already in the community.

* As of March 17, King County jails no longer accept people who are arrested for violating the terms of their state Department of Corrections community supervision and are returning people who are in county custody back to state custody.

Emergency precautions to ensure everyone’s health and safety

As of March 24, no one in custody has tested positive for COVID-19, though given that this is a pandemic, the staff is taking emergency precautions to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

Here are some of the emergency actions King County has taken so far:

* Cancelling public visitations and offering video visits at no costs to users.

* Transferring anyone in custody who is not symptomatic but is at a higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19 – 60 or older with underlying health conditions – to a housing unit at the Maleng Regional Justice Center, which is more conducive to social distancing and infection protection.

* Screening all staff members and professional visitors – such as attorneys – when they arrive at correctional facilities.

* Increased cleaning at all correctional facilities.

* Enhanced screening in pre-booking areas with Jail Health Services employees conducting further evaluations if someone exhibits symptoms before booking begins.

* So far, one staff member has reported testing positive for COVID-19. A correctional officer at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle notified his shift commander on March 16, eight days after his last shift.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. 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 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Design rendering of new development (Courtesy of Runberg Architecture Group)
Vulcan purchases 1.4-acre property in Bellevue next to future light rail station

The real estate developer says the eight-story development will have about 250 units of housing.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Supreme Court rules officers can be compelled to testify about killings

In a joint lawsuit against King County, the Washington State Supreme Court… Continue reading

Stock photo
Face coverings again recommended for indoor public settings

Regardless of vaccination status, says Public Health – Seattle & King County

t
Firearm violence in King County on upward trend

King County prosecutors note a backlog in court cases, point to the pandemic as the reason why.

Screenshot of King County Ecologist makes a PSA regarding water bacteria
Juanita Beach closed for bacteria levels once again

The beach is expected to be closed for at least a week.

infographic created by Coltura
Study suggests that the top 10 percent of gasoline-using drivers consume one-third of all the gas

Researchers believe converting “gasoline superusers” is an important factor in meeting climate goals

King County Logo
County property purchased in Bellevue for Eastside supportive and affordable housing

The $186 million project is expected to be finished by 2023.

Source: King County Medical Examiner’s Office
Drug overdose data shows an alarming trend in recent years

King County data indicates massive increase in fentanyl deaths from 2008 to 2020.

file photo
Eastside Fire and Rescue to share services with Woodinville Fire and Rescue

Eastside Fire and Rescue Board of Directors approved a ten-year agreement to share services.

Most Read