Category Archives: Jail/Prison Issues

Do Vegetarians Get Special Meals at the Jail?

The short answer is no. But there’s some explanation involved.

A woman was doing time at the Kitsap County jail for stealing a Bainbridge woman’s purse recently. She grew up vegetarian, her husband says — that is, she isn’t a vegetarian by choice, but rather her body literally rejects meat.

“It makes her violently ill because her body cannot process it,” her husband told me, adding that during her 90 day stint on the inside, she lost weight and survived on only “cake, candy, junk food and once in awhile they have steamed vegetables and a small salad.”

I made a phone call to the sheriff’s office to ask about it last week.

“We try to accomodate them as much as is practical,” said Kitsap County Sheriff’s spokesman Scott Wilson. “But we don’t go and get special vegetarian meals.”

Those with certain medical conditions, along with inmates whose religions mandate certain diets, do get special meals, Wilson said.

But when it comes to vegetarians, Wilson said the best they can do in jail is avoid the meat and get extra helpings of vegetables and starches.

There are some prisons and jails around the country that actually cater to vegetarian dietary needs. But Kitsap isn’t one of them.

Lakewood Tragedy: Time for a Change in Criminal Justice Policy?

The front page of Tuesday’s Kitsap Sun presented readers with two stories related to criminal justice: the cutting of corrections officers and Kitsap cops’ response to the tragedy in Lakewood.

I wasn’t alone in wondering this question: How can we be cutting corrections officers — a scaling back of the criminal justice system — just as a man slaughters four police officers execution style?

Today, the Christian Science Monitor’s editorial board cautions against letting anger in this “exceptional” case drive policy decisions.

” … The risk of a high-profile case such as Clemmons’s is that it will bring a backlash leading to a wrong policy,” they wrote. “That it will continue to discourage clemency, for instance, or that it will somehow slow the momentum toward reform.”

Is it time to chance policy in criminal justice — particularly in the way pardons and commutations are doled — in the wake of this tragedy? What do you think?

Flooding Could Bring up to 114 Inmates to Kitsap Jail

rjcnewIt’s official: King County will send inmates to Kitsap if the Green River floods sometime this year or in 2010.

The Associated Press confirmed today that the King County Council has approved an agreement to bring up to 114 to Kitsap if the Green River floods the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

I spoke with Ned Newlin, Kitsap County’s chief of corrections, today about the logistics. He said King County will get space in an unused, older portion of the jail and inside the soon-to-be closed work release facility. King County will pay $28 per day, per inmate for such use, and will provide its own corrections staff (hence why they’re not paying the regular $80 per inmate per day that cities like Port Orchard pay).

King County is bracing for possible Green River flooding because of a weakened abutment at the Howard Hanson Dam.

(Photo of King County’s Regional Justice Center from King County’s web site.)

Pros, Cons of Regionalizing 911 Dispatch Centers


How “local” should 911 centers be? On one hand, a regionwide 911 call center could coordinate well with many different emergency responders and save money through economies of scale. On the other hand, a local dispatch center provides local jobs and ensures that dispatchers are acutely knowledgeable of their territory, guiding responders to every nook and cranny in the county.

These very issues were at stake in an article Wednesday in the Port Townsend Leader. In Jefferson County, leaders are contemplating farming out dispatch services to either Clallam or Kitsap county, says Allison Arthur.

The first sentence to her story says it all:

“Call 911 today in Jefferson County and odds are the dispatcher answering the call lives in the county and knows where the buffalo roam off State Route 19.”

How much is that worth? That’s what Jefferson County, it seems, must decide.

Supreme Court Decision: ‘Cars will be Treated more like Houses’


A U.S. Supreme Court decision two weeks ago may have gone by with little fanfare, but its monumental impact will be felt across the country.

Arizona vs. Gant concerned a man convicted of cocaine possession. He’d been driving with a suspended license, and when arrested on suspicion of that charge, police searched his car.

As a regular reader of the county’s police reports, I can tell you that many felony cases are developed after police find a driver with a warrant, and then are able to search his or her car. They could find drugs, bundles of other people’s mail, or evidence or other criminal activity. And no crime gave the cops a chance to look inside more often than driving with a suspended license, or “DWLS” for short.

Until now.

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Behind the Story: Germs, Guns and Jails


Spending the day with community corrections officers was quite an experience. If you’ve seen the story, you know that they wear many hats in their line of work.

Attempting to keep in line some of society’s most hardened criminals can’t be easy. And there are definitely some quirks to their line of work. Among them I found that:

  • Surprisingly, most of those monitored by corrections officials don’t come out of a state corrections prison. If felony sentences are less than a year, offenders do their time in county jails. That means DOC is less acclimated to the offender, and the offender in turn has not likely been geared toward any plan for their lives on the outside. In a state prison, there are more resources for job training and counseling than at county jails.
  • The economy’s nosedive hasn’t helped those with criminal records get jobs, leading to increased homelessness. “And the bottom line is if you don’t have a place to stay, how are you going to follow the conditions?” Marcus Miller, one of the officers I followed around, said.
  • If offenders are living without a “stable home life” — including staying at a motel — they must check in once a week.
  • They keep hand sanitizer in their car. Viruses rampantly circulate the DOC office as offenders come and go.
  • Both Miller and and his partner on the day, Denise Posey, carry guns. Though it is optional, one thing about the job isn’t: “100 percent of the time, you’re dealing with felons,” Miller said.

UPDATE: Seabeck Man Sentenced to More than 18 Years in Father’s Death


Martin Warren, who pleaded guilty last month to the second-degree murder of his father after his first conviction for the crime was overturned on appeal, was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison Monday morning.

Judge M. Karlynn Haberly called it “a very tragic case.” And while she felt sympathy for Warren, 39, due to some of the actions of the father he ultimately killed, the judge felt justice demanded the sentence.

“The things that Martin Warren’s father did … were horrific to say the least, ” she said. “But he does deserve to be punished for this crime.”

Warren (left) was convicted of first-degree murder in October 2006 and he was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of his father, 61-year-old Russell Warren, at their Seabeck home.

But the District II Court of Appeals in Tacoma overturned that conviction, saying that Warren’s attorney led jurors to believe that their only options in the case were a conviction on first-degree murder charges or “outright acquittal.” The appeals court said that constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.

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From Kitsap to the Governor’s Desk: Crime Victims Bill Awaits Signature


The State Legislature has voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would give crime victims a chance to voice their opinions on their offender’s placement in the prison system’s work release program.

And the effort all started here in Kitsap.

House Bill 1076, introduced twice in as many years by Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island (pictured), mandates the Department of Corrections to “consider” a victim’s input, and based on such testimony, DOC could change its decision about an offender’s work release placement.

The bill’s passage into law now only awaits Gov. Christine Gregoire’s signature.

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Will State Close our Very Own Version of Alcatraz?


The last prison in America located on a remote island is on the chopping block.

The state senate’s budget has plans to move out of the McNeil Island state prison, a 1,300 population lockup located in the pastoral south Puget Sound, the Tacoma News Tribune reports.

The territorial prison there got its first prisoners — two men who’d sold booze to Native Americans and one who’d robbed a fort store — in 1875, according to HistoryLink. When I visited the place last spring, the man who provided escort for me on the ferry ride told me an interesting fact. It wasn’t built for Alcatraz-like security reasons (i.e. its icy cold water surroundings) but rather because that’s just the way everyone commuted back then.

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