King County Jails Audit Finds Racial Bias In Discipline

SEATTLE (AP) — Black people jailed in King County generally face more severe discipline and more restrictive confinement than incarcerated people of other races, according to a sweeping audit of the King County Department Adult and Juvenile Detention’s (DAJD) jail operations.

The King County Auditor’s Office report also says fights, assaults and other violence that happens frequently within the county’s two adult jails are partly driven by the practice of housing two people in the tight quarters of a single cell, The Seattle Times reported.

These and other findings were presented Tuesday to the Metropolitan King County Council’s Law and Justice Committee.

The problems identified — including documented incidents of violence, deaths in custody, racial disparities among the incarcerated and a dearth of psychiatric resources for an increasing number of people with serious mental illnesses — generally exist because the county’s corrections department “lacks a robust risk management system to help keep the people in its care safe,” according to the report.

The audit offers 25 recommendations meant to establish a new risk management approach to consistently assess and improve jail safety. The plan should include policies that prevent assigning more than one person to the same cell, making more cells suicide-resistant, increasing mental health resources and reducing racial inequities in discipline and housing, the auditors said.

DAJD Director John Diaz told council members Tuesday he welcomed the recommendations to further the goals of safety and racial equity.

“We took every one of those recommendations seriously and there is going to be a written plan,” Diaz said.