The death yesterday of yet another King County Jail inmate sets an unfortunate record for the county lockups in 2007 - six prisoner fatalities, the most of any year this decade. The latest was a female, 55, whose cause of death has not yet been released.
That continues an ever-upward death trend in the corrections system. It averaged one death a year from 2000 through 2002, but 26 have died in the five years since.
King County Executive Ron Sims has included more money for custody staff in his current budget proposal but inmate health care has also been a major issue.
Medical errors in the jail system increased by more than 200 incidents in 2006 over 2005. There were 854 incidents reported to Jail Health Services in 2006, compared to a record 614 the previous year at the King County Correctional Facility (the downtown Seattle jail) and the Regional Justice Center in Kent. Officials say no foul play has so far been linked to any of the five prior deaths this year (including one in the juvenile facility). At least one inmate died from a jail bacterial infection that has caused deaths in previous years as well.