MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Corrections Guild ‘extremely fearful’ as more weapons infiltrate Kent jail

Apr 22, 2024, 7:28 AM

weapons kent jail...

Exterior of Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. (Photo courtesy of King County)

(Photo courtesy of King County)

Corrections officers have expressed their concern and frustration after discovering multiple weapons in Kent’s correctional facility’s laundry over the last couple of weeks.

The King County Corrections Guild, which represents more than 450 corrections officers and sergeants, has asked jail leaders and representatives to take immediate action to keep correction facilities’ staff safe after two knives were found within inmate laundry in separate incidents two weeks apart at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

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“The discovery of these knives inside the secure perimeter of our jails poses a significant risk not only to our corrections officers, but to all jail employees, volunteers and residents,” Dennis Folk, President of King County Corrections Guild, said in a prepared statement. “We are extremely fearful that other weapons may have made their way into the jail that we don’t know about.”

According to the Maleng Regional Justice Center, the knives were found and reported by inmate workers in both instances.

The Corrections Officer Union bargained laundry duties to a private contractor in its last negotiations in an attempt to simplify the process of providing clean laundry to jail inmates, but the Corrections Guild has since grown concerned about contraband, including weapons or objects that can used as weapons, infiltrating the jail with less difficulty, like the knives found packaged alongside clean laundry.

The agreement occurred during the 2022-2024 collective bargaining agreement negotiations with Aramark — a food service and facilities services provider — taking on the responsibility of the jail’s laundry.

Over the past two years, the Corrections Guild has reported numerous incidents where sharp objects and other contraband have been found since Aramark took over.

“The King County Corrections Guild strongly believes that the only true way to prevent weapons and other prohibited items from entering the jail is for uniformed officers to maintain complete control over the entire process, from cleaning to collection and distribution,” Folk continued. “Relying on outside vendors or third-party service providers like Aramark, where security measures may be less stringent, poses a significant risk to the safety and well-being of both inmates and staff.”

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Last June, the King County’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention moved nearly 400 inmates to Maleng Regional Justice Center from its Seattle facility. The Justice Center now holds approximately 40% of the average daily jail population, up from nearly 25% earlier in 2023.

Maleng Regional Justice Center’s double-bunked units invite more safety concerns

The King County Corrections Guild has previously advocated for the discontinuation of double-bunked units at the Maleng facility after a coordinated assault against a corrections officer occurred last December. The officer was reportedly ambushed from behind by the inmates who concealed his face with a towel, restrained him in a chokehold, forced him to the ground and then proceeded to attack him. The guild has cited double-bunk housing units at the Maleng Regional Justice Center “directly led” to this planned violent encounter.

“In response to this incident, the King County Corrections Guild has sent a letter to department leaders, calling for the immediate end of double-bunked units at the RJC or for those units to be staffed with a second officer,” King County Corrections Guild said in a prepared statement. “The guild also demands the cessation of the security overrides to inmates for housing purposes.”

The officer attacked was sent to the hospital, where he recovered without incident. He had 28 years of experience as a corrections officer.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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