Police officials have cut the jail population at the City of Kent Corrections Facility by about 63 percent to limit COVID-19 exposure to inmates.
The daily population has dropped from an average of 134 inmates before the outbreak to 50 at the city jail, 1230 Central Ave. S., according to a Thursday email from Kent Police Assistant Chief Jarod Kasner, who helps oversee jail operations.
So far, no inmate or corrections officer has come down with the coronavirus.
“None to date – thank goodness,”Kasner said. “We continue to use universal precautions and also continually clean and disinfect.”
Police Chief Rafael Padilla said steps needed to be taken to reduce the jail population.
“Like everyone else we took immediate action to limit potential exposure to our employees as well as the community, including the inmates at our city jail facility,” Padilla said in an email. “Unlike many industries, our police officers, corrections officers and essential civilian PD staff can’t telecommute to do their essential job duties.”
Only inmates who commit violent crimes, such as fourth-degree assault, harassment, are kept in custody. People who commit property crimes, such as theft, possession of stolen property or theft of a motor vehicle, for the most part are not jailed.
“We are currently only booking people into our jail who either were arrested for a violent crime or a crime that requires they be arrested and booked by law, like DV (domestic violence) assault or DUI,” Padilla said.
King County has taken similar steps at its two jails, one in Kent at the Maleng Regional Justice Center and the other in downtown Seattle. Kent Police take serious felony offenders (homicide, rape, armed robbery) to the county jails.
“While these temporary protocols may send the wrong message to would-be criminals, I want to be very clear in that we have taken steps to ensure we have the capacity if needed to put property crime offenders in jail,” Padilla said.
Under the new policy, officers will arrest people but not take them to jail, depending on the crime.
“It’s also important to note that although some criminals will not be physically taken to our jail, our officers will still apprehend them and they will be issued a criminal citation that will eventually result in them having to answer for their crimes in court,” Padilla said.
The police chief emphasized criminals shouldn’t expect a field day in Kent.
“If anyone thinks that they are going to take advantage of the COVID crisis and go on a crime spree, they are going to be in for a big surprise,” Padilla said.
With fewer inmates, the majority are in single cells rather than doubling up as has been done in the past to increase the population, Kasner said. He said the goal is to keep the population around 50 inmates.
“Yes, recognizing that it may increase due to bookings,” Kasner said about the target of 50 inmates. “We are still policing our community and arrests are still occurring.”
In the past, jail staff also has used a dormitory that can hold another 30-plus inmates.
Kasner said Kent has suspended sending any inmates to the Yakima County Jail, which the city contracts with when it has too many inmates. Kasner said the city jail has two inmates from Federal Way, which contracts with Kent to house as many as five inmates.
Kent Police released the following document that describes jail protocol during the COVID-19 outbreak:
All suspects must be screened prior to entering the facility
Screening will be conducted in the garage or intake area
Do not screen suspects in the booking area
If displaying symptoms our medical staff will coordinate to test for Covid-19 and suspect will be transport to the hospital if required.
Segregation for initial bookings
All newly booked inmates will be housed in “initial booking units”
The newly booked inmates will remain in the initial booking units for 7-days (per Medical Provider)
The inmates will be re-screened prior to moving to general population
Jail lobby screening (public):
Do not allow the public lobby access
Control will assist through the intercom
If needed staff will go to the lobby door and assist
Property release will be done only for emergency/hardship reasons and requires sergeant approval
If approved the property will be issued outside, not in the lobby
Family and bondsmen will not access the lobby, take the bail from outside
If for some reason they need lobby access get a sergeants approval
Attorneys, interpreters, and medical professionals
Screening prior to entry
Jail court commitments
All court commitments will be re-scheduled to start in May
Work Release and Electric Home Detention new bookings will be postponed
Work Crew inmates stopped going to work sites on March 18
Will move to mandatory booking status, effective March 19
Programs will continue to conduct population management through Yakima transports and early releases worked through the courts and judges
Have established a quarantine unit and will be used as needed
Corrections staff will serve inmate meals
Inmates who are not quarantined will not access this area
Screening jail inmates for programs, Electric Home Detention and Work Crew
Population management – transferring and screening inmates
Officers will supervise the Work Crew inmate on the jail grounds; pulling weeds, organizing the annex storage area, and overall grounds maintenance
Personal Protective Equipment – PPE’s have been provided to the staff and cleaning and disinfecting is continually taking place throughout the facility.