Washington jails are old, crowded and holding people who are disabled, mentally ill and often haven’t yet been convicted of a crime. County jails are often the first stop for people who enter the criminal justice system.

Disabled inmates are suffering from discrimination and isolation in Washington jails. That’s the finding of a report out Wednesday from Disability Rights Washington.

Mentally ill inmates continue to languish in Washington jails despite a recent federal judge’s ruling that the practice is unconstitutional.

Behind Bars And Far Away

Feb 27, 2015

Fifteen years ago, western Washington cities started sending local inmates to jails in the eastern part of the state, as a remedy for overcrowding and high jail costs. But many people in county jails are defendants still awaiting trial, and the transfers can get in the way of their ability to mount a legal defense. 

In 2005, Alex Hooks faced misdemeanor domestic violence charges in Seattle. Seattle stopped out-of-county transfers for pretrial inmates soon after Hooks challenged the policy, but his experience sheds light on ongoing problems with the practice as it persists today.

Human Cargo: Washington’s Jail Bed Economy

Feb 26, 2015
Rowan Moore Gerety / Northwest Public Radio

Brad Schmidt has been an inmate in the Wapato jail for almost a year. It’s a small place, built in 1909, with the police department upstairs, and the court next door. Schmidt often washes patrol cars parked outside.

As jails go, it can be refreshingly informal, Schmidt says. “When I tell them I need to go out, I just put a coat on and walk out the front door. In Wapato, Schmidt has earned this level of freedom as a trustee.  He says the jail doesn’t have the “big county feel” of jails like Pierce County, where Schmidt, who’s from Tacoma, has been in the past.

Visit A Loved One In Jail? It'll Cost You

Jan 13, 2015
Rowan Moore Gerety / NWPR


Over the years, local governments have turned to private companies to manage more and more of the American penal system. Sometimes prisons themselves, but also probation and drug treatment services, transportation, and phone systems. Now, add jail visitation to the list.

Until this past fall, Joel Goff had never set foot in the Lewis County Jail. Then his son was arrested.

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.

Voters in three Oregon counties have rejected property tax increases to fund public safety and jails. The levies in Curry, Polk, and Columbia counties would have made up for cuts to federal timber aid.

Piper Kerman was a 24-year-old Smith College graduate in 1993, when she flew to Belgium with a suitcase of money intended for a West African drug lord.

This misguided adventure started when she began a romantic relationship with a woman who was part of what Kerman describes as a "clique of impossibly stylish and cool lesbians in their mid-30s." That woman was involved in a drug-smuggling ring, and got Kerman involved, too, though Kerman left that life after several months.

Immigration Program Activated in Wash. Jails

Apr 3, 2012
Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A controversial federal immigration program is now in effect across all of Washington State, as of today . The statewide rollout came earlier than some anticipated.