King County Corrections Guild calls for two-week shutdown of jail operations
The president of the King County Corrections Guild (KCCG) is calling for a two-week shutdown of all jail operations due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
There are just over 1,300 inmates in custody in King County. KCCG President Dennis Folk says nearly 34%, or 460 inmates, are either COVID positive or in COVID protocols. There are also 40 staff members in the same situation. That’s led to tense situations among prison populations in the county.
“We’ve had some incidents where inmates were refusing to let anybody into their cells. One night we thought we were going to have a riot,” Folk told KIRO Newsradio.
Given an already difficult staffing shortage of nearly 100 officers, Folk says they must have a two-week quarantine and shut down immediately to keep inmates, as well as staff and their families, safe. Logistically, that would mean cutting back on the number of people booked into jail, excepting DUIs and assaults. Those who would still be booked would be quarantined themselves upon entry.
Further exacerbating the situation is the fact that Folk anticipates another 35 to 40 staff vacancies by the summer, leaving King County jails with even fewer people to fill the gaps. The hope with a two-week operations shutdown is that there will be enough time to get COVID outbreaks under control, and ensure that facilities will be as close to fully staffed as possible in the coming months.
“The reality is we no longer have the luxury of spreading the inmates around in the various units or maintaining social distancing,” Folk warned.