That King County Council committee hearing yesterday was a start, at least, in making sure jail administrators and executive Ron Sims finally make changes at the downtown lockup. Council members seemed to agree with our report this week on how federal findings on jail deaths and civil rights violations were received with some of the same ol' bureaucratic shoulder shrugging of the past. "There's a huge divide between 'room for improvement' and what's in the report," council member Bob Ferguson said of the reaction to the Justice Department findings.
Still, will the message really sink in? The P-I reports that King County jailers will merely "re-examine" their use of hair-holds to subdue inmates, and the Times notes that corrections director Reed Holtgeerts says his jail administration is cooperating with the feds "as much as we can."
Ex-con Paul Wright, now editor of the Prison Legal News (which won $541,000 in a open-records lawsuit against the state this year as part of its probes of lockups), tells me in an e-mail that, "As a practical matter these DOJ suits against prisons and jails are not even a paper tiger. They are pretty meaningless." I agreed but said at least there's an embarrassment factor, which might prompt other officials to act. "Yes," he responded, "but the embarassment quickly passes and nothing changes."