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King County, DOJ reach agreement on proposed jail improvements

King County Executive Ron Sims has announced a proposed agreement with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) that addresses previous issues concerning jail operations and establishes measures that continue ongoing improvements. The proposal is now being transmitted to the King County Council for review and authorization.

The proposed agreement is the result of a year-long negotiation with DOJ and settles concerns raised in the DOJ’s Nov. 13, 2007 letter regarding the King County Correctional Facility. King County continues to disagree with the initial assertion by DOJ that the constitutional rights of inmates are or have been being violated, and has been implementing positive change in the jail both before and during the DOJ investigation. Under the agreement, King County will continue to work with DOJ to achieve additional improvements in the jail system.

“I’m grateful for the collaborative nature of the negotiations with the Department of Justice and gratified that this agreement acknowledges the jail improvements already under way before the DOJ issued its report,” said Sims. “We will continue our improvements and the additional measures called for in the agreement.”

In addition to working with the Department of Justice, the county implemented several major enhancements in jail practices during 2008, including:

• A new procedure for expanded scrutiny of uses of force in the facility.

• A new procedure for reviewing and managing the use of force in the facility by creating a “Use of Force Board,” which consists of the deputy director and facility commanders of the two jail facilities and meets regularly to review uses of force in the facilities.

• Additional training for corrections officers in appropriate uses of force.

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