King County has a preliminary agreement with the Dept. of Justice to prevent deaths and improve the unhealthy conditions in its aging downtown jail. But there seems no end to the county's non-denial denials. Exec Ron Sims says he is "gratified that this agreement acknowledges the jail improvements already underway before the DOJ issued its report." Detention honcho Kathy Van Olst says the agreement comes "as we fulfill our mandate for providing safe, secure and humane detention." Health Dept. chief David Fleming says "We're pleased that the Department of Justice has agreed with us on the path forward."
Trust us, they say: despite the deadly history of the jail's previous years - and even a death in the midst of the DOJ probe that found civil and human rights violations - the county was going to fix the problems without being forced. Never mind that, after two jail inmates committed suicide (one by overdosing
on hoarded jail medications, the other by hanging, using an easily accessed TV-set
cord), Sims inexplicably pronounced jail medical care was "efficient
That's why the most important part of the proposed agreement with the feds is this: The DOJ will, as part of the settlement, file a federal lawsuit, seeking potential damages and penalties. And it will remain open until the county restores human rights to prisoners and no longer allows conditions that lead to death penalties for drug users and petty thieves.
It's no longer something the county can say it was already doing. Now it actually has to do it.