Snohomish Jail Overcrowded, Understaffed

Nov 6, 2013

A new federal report says overcrowding and understaffing puts the health of Snohomish County Jail inmates at risk. The report comes after eight deaths at the jail in the past three years.

The Snohomish County Jail in Everett has about 1200 inmates. It’s got one doctor. And he’s part-time. Even with 16 nurses and two nurse practitioners, understaffing is bad enough that the health and safety of both inmates and staff are at risk. That’s one of the main findings of a new report from the National Institute of Corrections. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office requested the study of the health of the jail it runs. Among other problems: too few staff on hand to keep watch on suicidal inmates -- and inmates are packed so densely that diseases can spread like wildfire.

Trenary: “Every bed is full, and we’ve got people in what are called boats – portable beds or cots. So walkway areas, common areas, are instead being used for people to sleep in.”

Ty Trenary is Snohomish County Sheriff.

Trenary: “We have enough employees to adequately handle anywhere from 600 to 700 inmates, and we’ve been running a much larger population.”

Ryan: “About twice that, I guess.”

Trenary: “Close to twice that, yes, sir.”

Trenary says the county has been working on the report’s recommendations since it learned of them in September. Trenary says the jail has hired more nurses and deputies in recent months. It aims to reduce its population by about 200 inmates, in part by keeping non-violent offenders, especially the mentally ill, out of jail.

Copyright 2013 KUOW