Monday, May 12, 2008

Open Letter to Ron Sims

Ron Sims, King County Executive, is ultimately responsible for conditions at the King County Jail -- including the notorious Seattle jail, which was recently the target of a U.S. Justice Department investigation that turned up several serious problems.

I've heard Mr. Sims (a political activist of long standing) speak passionately and compellingly on a range of social justice issues. In his public speeches, Sims has always taken the side of the oppressed against the oppressor. Frankly, when the story of the Justice Department investigation broke I was flabbergasted. But what amazed me even more was Sims' response to the Justice Department's findings. Instead of frankly owning up to the problem and committing to do something about, Sims decided to circle the wagons around the bureaucracy, claiming that everything was OK at the jail and that prisoners' rights were being scrupulously observed.

Disheartened and disgusted, I decided to call Mr. Sims out on his failure to address the problems at the Seattle jail. Following is the text of an open letter I recently sent him asking how he intends to clean up the mess in his own house.

Note: In fairness to Mr. Sims, I will post any response he makes to the letter on this blog. In the meantime I encourage others to write similar letters.


* * * * * * * *
Ron Sims
King County Executive
701 Fifth Ave Suite 3210
Seattle WA 98104

May 8, 2008

Open Letter to RON SIMS
Re: Justice Department Report and King County Jail

Dear Mr. Sims,

Last November the United States Justice Department released the findings of a months-long investigation the department had done into conditions at the King County Jail facility in downtown Seattle. The investigation was launched following complaints from the county’s own ombudsman concerning health services provided to inmates and other problems at the jail.

Among the Justice Department’s most serious findings were:
· that inmates were being physically and sexually assaulted by guards.

· that there were many instances of unnecessary use of force by guards against inmates who were either already restrained or not violent.

· that medical care for inmates has been consistently substandard, leading to inmate deaths and outbreaks of hard-to-control
and highly infectious bacteria.
Perhaps the most worrisome finding was that allegations of inmate abuse or medical malfeasance were not properly investigated or followed up on. Not surprisingly, since November there have been several other news reports concerning the health situation at the jail.

Mr. Sims, these charges are both serious and credible. At the time the Justice Department report was released you said little. You did say, however, that you were convinced that King County is running a “constitutionally sound facility.” I’m not an expert in constitutional law, but failing to protect the health of people in your care doesn’t sound “constitutionally sound” to me. I would like to know what you are doing concretely to investigate and correct these ongoing problems at the jail.

I’ve often heard you speak passionately against those who would violate other people’s rights. Yet where is that passion now that an organization you are responsible for stands accused? Are you a righteous man? Or are you one of those who plucks motes out of other’s eyes while ignoring the beam in his own? Please think about the responsibility you bear with regard to the safety of jail inmates, and let me know what you’re doing to ensure that inmates are not harmed while they are in your custody. Thank you.


A Concerned King County Resident

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

U.S. Leads the World in Incarceration

While the United States had the dubious distinction of being the country that incarcerates more of its citizens per capita we now have an equally astounding benchmark. The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. We incarcerate more people than countries with four times the population. According to an April 23, 2008 article in the New York Times by Adam Liptak, the U.S. now leads the world in people behind bars.

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison....

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England’s rate is 151; Germany’s is 88; and Japan’s is 63....

“Far from serving as a model for the world, contemporary America is viewed with horror,” James Q. Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale, wrote last year in Social Research. “Certainly there are no European governments sending delegations to learn from us about how to manage prisons.”

Prison sentences here have become “vastly harsher than in any other country to which the United States would ordinarily be compared,” Michael H. Tonry, a leading authority on crime policy, wrote in “The Handbook of Crime and Punishment.”

Indeed, said Vivien Stern, a research fellow at the prison studies center in London, the American incarceration rate has made the United States “a rogue state, a country that has made a decision not to follow what is a normal Western approach.”....

Efforts to combat illegal drugs play a major role in explaining long prison sentences in the United States as well. In 1980, there were about 40,000 people in American jails and prisons for drug crimes. These days, there are almost 500,000.

Those figures have drawn contempt from European critics. “The U.S. pursues the war on drugs with an ignorant fanaticism,” said Ms. Stern of King’s College....

Other commentators were more definitive. “The simple truth is that imprisonment works,” wrote Kent Scheidegger and Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in The Stanford Law and Policy Review. “Locking up criminals for longer periods reduces the level of crime. The benefits of doing so far offset the costs.”

There is a counterexample, however, to the north. “Rises and falls in Canada’s crime rate have closely paralleled America’s for 40 years,” Mr. Tonry wrote last year. “But its imprisonment rate has remained stable.”

Dubious honor. Nonetheless, commentators, politicos and prosecutors continue to push harsh incarceration policies. One wonders what the long term effects of such policies will be? Prison does nothing to prepare inmates to become productive citizens. To the contrary, given the nature of imprisonment, the longer an inmate spends in prison the more dysfunctional he or she becomes. In the end, we will find that these policies are decaying our democratic values. And it will be future generations who will pay for this vengeful folly.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Totally Preventible Death of Lynn Dale Iszley at the Hands of King County

King County Ombudsman's Office
King County
Respondent: Public Health-Seattle & King County,
Jail Health Services
Ombudsman Case No. 2007-01436
April 15, 2008


Lynn Dale Iszley was booked into the King County Correctional Facility on July 16, 2007, and soon began exhibiting symptoms consistent with alcohol and heroin
withdrawal. Mr. Iszley's symptoms worsened in the early morning of July 18, and his condition deteriorated until his death in the early morning of July 19. The cause of
death was acute peritonitis 1 due to a perforated ulcer. Corrections officers, who are employed by the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, appear to have acted appropriately and commendably by responding to Mr. Iszley's condition in a timely and professional manner. However, based on our independent review of the record and on the opinion of our expert consultants who reviewed Mr. Iszley's medical records, we find that Jail Health Services (JHS), a division of Public Health-Seattle & King County (DPH), failed to provide Mr. Iszley with the medical care he needed. Based on his symptoms, JHS providers should have, but failed to, recognize that Mr. Iszley was suffering from an acute illness other than withdrawaL. Mr. Iszley should have received intravenous fluids and been transported to a hospital emergency room on July 18, 2007. Mr. Iszley might have survived had JHS taken these actions.

This Office transmitted its preliminary findings to DPH along with recommendations for
improvements. We recommended that JHS review the actions of each JHS employee
involved in Mr. Iszley's care, evaluate whether discipline is appropriate, and take steps
to ensure that the mistakes made in Mr. Iszley's care are not repeated. We provided
DPH with an opportunity to respond to our preliminary findings and recommendations.
DPH elected not to respond to our findings, but responded to our recommendations by
describing JHS' ongoing efforts to improve its systems of care.

Mr. Iszley was arrested on the afternoon of July 15, 2007. Before he was booked, a
JHS employee conducted a medical screening of Mr. Iszley. The screening noted
bleeding on Mr. Iszley's right wrist, and skin sores on his buttocks and legs. Booking
was deferred, and Mr. Iszley was taken to HMC, (Harborview Medical Center) where he was diagnosed with abscesses and prescribed Bactrim, an antibiotic. Mr. Iszley was then transported back to KCCF and booked very early in the morning on July 16, 2007. Mr. Iszley told JHS staff that he used heroin and alcohol daily. On the evening of July 16, Mr. Iszley appeared to be experiencing opiate withdrawals, and had been vomiting. JHS staff provided him with medication intended to help stop the vomiting. A JHS physician evaluated Mr. Iszley on the morning of July 17. Mr. Iszley had open and scabbed wounds on his right buttock and calf. The physician diagnosed Mr. Iszley with alcohol and opiate withdrawal, and ordered antibiotics for the open wounds.

In the early morning of July 18, Mr. Iszley pressed the emergency call button in his
housing unit. A corrections officer responded, and found Mr. Iszley curled on his bunk.
Mr. Iszley said, "I think my liver exploded," and reported "kicking alcohol." A corrections officer made a medical status II call, 4 and a JHS staff member soon arrived. Mr. Iszley 4 A Medical Status II call is appropriate for a U(p)otential life-endangering medical problem and/or inmate unable to be moved". Iszley complained of abdominal pain "like never before," including pain when lying on his right side. He was sweating and writhing. After examining Mr. Iszley, the responding JHS staff member cleared him to remain in his housing unit. Later on the morning of July 18, a nurse was called to Mr. Iszley's housing unit. The nurse found Mr. Iszley lying on the floor, sweating, with tremors, and complaining of vomiting, nausea, and inability to eat or drink. The nurse notified a JHS physician, who ordered Mr. Iszley transported to the jail clinic. The physician's notes, entered later that morning, record that Mr. Iszley's symptoms were increasing, and that Mr. Iszley was dehydrated. The physician ordered vital signs three times daily, rehydration fluids, and observation in detox housing within the jail infirmary. Mr. Iszley's records show a low blood-oxygen saturation rate in the morning and low blood pressure in the afternoon.

His infirmary admission note states that he denied voiding his bladder since the morning
of July 15. He was administered 400mg of Motrin. Mr. Iszley complained of rib pain, chest pain, and pain in general during the night of July 18 and/or early morning of July 19. During medication pass on the early morning of July 19, Mr. Iszley stumbled when he tried to stand. Two other inmates helped him to the floor. Mr. Iszley did not eat his breakfast. Shortly after 7:00 a.m. on July 19, a corrections officer attempted to wake Mr. Iszley, but he did not respond. The officer called a nurse, who also could not wake Mr. Iszley. The officer made a medical status III cal1.5 JHS personnel arrived and attempted to revive Mr. Iszley. Mr. Iszley was declared deceased at 7:50 a.m. An autopsy conducted by the King County Medical Examiner's Office concluded that Mr. Iszley died of acute peritonitis due to perforated duodenal ulcer.6

This Office obtained review of Mr. Iszley's medical records from two physicians who
practice and teach outside of the Seattle area. Each possesses experience and expertise specifically relevant to Mr. Iszley's medical care. Dean Dellinger, M.D., was certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in 1995, and serves as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Internal Medicine Division of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. Lori S. Kohler, M.D., an 5 A Medical Status III call is appropriate for a U(c)ritical, life-threatening emergency." JHS Operating Procedure J-E-8(4). 6 Mr. Iszley's mother, and a friend of Mr. Iszley's interviewed by this Office, stated that Mr. Iszley knew he was suffering from an ulcer, and had obtained treatment for it from medical providers. However, Mr. Iszley's records do not contain any indication that he told corrections staff or jail health staff about the ulcer.

An expert in correctional health, is Professor of Clinical Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and serves as Director of the Correctional Medicine Consultation Network. Prior to this case, this Office had no relationship with either Dr. Dellinger or Dr. Kohler, and neither of them knew that the other was reviewing Mr. Iszley's medical records. Dr. Dellnger's report is attached to this report as Appendix B. Dr. Kohler's report is attached as Appendix C. Overall, Dr. Dellinger identified the following problems with the care that JHS provided to Mr. Iszley:

. JHS staff initially failed to document that they continued Mr. Iszley's antibiotic
prescribed by HMC.
. Monitoring vital signs twice per day was not consistent with hospital practice.
. Documentation of patient history was limited.
. Abdominal pain and lack of voiding were not specifically noted as negatives or
positives in MD history.
. Chart contains no documentation of evening vital signs.
. More careful evaluation of hydration status would have been appropriate.
. Full orthostatic vital signs were not taken during July 18 medical status II call.
. Low oxygen saturation level noted on the morning of July 18, if accurate,
required more urgent evaluation.
. Tachycardia (heart rate above 100 beats per minute) such as that experienced
by Mr. Iszley is associated with acute illness as well as dehydration and
withdrawal, but JHS did not transport Mr. Iszley to the emergency room.

Dr. Dellnger stated his opinion that "the patient should have been transferred to the
emergency room by mid afternoon of 7/18/08 (sic)". In this regard, Dr. Dellenger wrote,
In Mr. Iszley's case the severity of the pain and the fact that he localized his abdominal pain should have raised concerns earlier for another source of his abdominal pain after his evaluation early 7/18/07. Neither of (the JHS physician's) evaluations on the 18th listed any alternative causes for the abdominal pain, such as gastritis, ulcer, pancreatitis-all of which are more likely in the setting of alcohol abuse. 7 The Correctional Medicine Consultation Network (CMCN) is a program of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, in collaboration with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). CMCN's mission is to improve the quality of healthcare, the dignity, and the quality of life of inmates in California prisons, through, among other things, peer education and professional development for CDCR clinicians, assessment of care and consultation for high risk patients, and evaluation of medical care delivery systems.

Regarding Mr. Iszley's apparent worsening dehydration on the morning of July 18, Dr.
Dellinger noted that Mr. Iszley's records reflect that full orthostatic vital signs8 were not
taken during the medical status II call This was not consistent with the relevant standard of care, according to Dr. Dellnger. He further stated that Mr. Iszley's report of not voiding his bladder for three days, would suggest severe dehydration and possible renal failure. These signs of dehydration, and especially the lack of voiding in the face of 2 days of antiemetics(9) should have warranted-at the least-IV hydration and closer monitoring. . . . (Mr. Iszley'sJ low BPs and persistent tachycardia(10) are concerning for worsening dehydration and other more acute illness. . . . the standard of care would have been starting IV fluids at 9am or at the latest 1 pmand had vital signs repeated every 2-3 hours. While Dr. Dellinger could not identify the exact time when Mr. Iszley's ulcer perforated, "the most likely time would have been early on the morning of the 1 am (when he) complained of the most severe abdominal pain." Dr. Dellinger concluded that while Mr. Iszley's substance abuse history would have reduced his chance of survival, "Mr. Iszley's chance of survival would have been significantly improved if he had been
diagnosed with perforation within 12-24 hours of the event" and Mr. Iszley "likely would
have benefited" from transfer to a hospital emergency room on July 18. Dr. Kohler's findings are consistent with those of Dr. Dellnger. Dr. Kohler wrote, It is obvious from reading the records that his (Mr. Iszley'sJ was not a case of the usual withdrawal syndromes from etoh (alcohol) and heroin. . . . This patient had an 'acute abdomen' and should have been transferred to an emergency room where prompt surgical evaluation most likely would have saved his life. JHS did not respond appropriately to multiple signs and symptoms that should have prompted immediate transfer to a higher level of care.

Dr. Kohler's report specifically criticized JHS for keeping incomplete patient records, failing to perform various tests indicated by Mr. Iszley's symptoms, and failing to take appropriate action based on the information JHS had. 8 Orthostatic vital signs are "serial measurements of blood pressure and pulse taken with the patient in supine, sitting, and standing positions. . . .n http://enw.orQ/Research-Orthostatic.htm, accessed online, March 12,2008.9 Antiemetics are drugs that prevent vomiting.

This office makes findings based on a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof.
A preponderance of the evidence means we are persuaded, considering all the available evidence, that the facts at issue are more likely true than not true. While corrections officers appear to have responded promptly and appropriately to Mr. Iszley's medical condition, based on our review of the complete DAJD investigative file, Mr. Iszley's medical and autopsy records, and the analyses provided by Drs. Dellnger and Kohler, this Office finds that JHS failed to provide Mr. Iszley with the medical care he needed while he was in custody at KCCF. Mr. Iszley was observed suffering from severe localized abdominal pain and other intense symptoms on the morning of July 18, 2007, and yet he was initially cleared to remain in his general population housing unit.

He was later transferred to the infirmary, but the anti-vomiting medications and attempts
at oral hydration were not working. Moreover, Mr. Iszley's vital signs, including persistent tachycardia, and his overall deteriorating condition, indicated the possibility of acute ilness. JHS should have transferred Mr. Iszley to the emergency room on July 18. JHS's failure to do so may have contributed to Mr. Iszley's death. We note that symptoms of perforated ulcer and peritonitis may overlap with those of opiate and alcohol withdrawal, thereby complicating diagnosis in cases such as Mr. Iszley's. Lay observers might initially assume that withdrawal symptoms would fully mask the symptoms of acute ilness present here. However, as Dr. Dellinger's and Dr. Kohler's reviews establish, professionally-trained medical providers should have recognized and acted on Mr. Iszley's symptoms that indicated the presence of illness more acute than withdrawal.


While this Office's investigation focused on determining the appropriateness of the
medical care that JHS provided to Mr. Iszley, in our preliminary report to DPH we also
recommended that in response to Mr. Iszley's death, JHS should review the actions of
each JHS employee involved with Mr. Iszley's care, and evaluate whether to discipline
employees found to have violated relevant medical standards of care, or those who
otherwise deviated from applicable protocols.

We also recommended that JHS undertake a comprehensive review of how it responds
to inmates in severe pain, how it determines whether to transport patients to the
emergency room, and how it evaluates patients for acute ilness when those patients
suffer from complicating symptoms such as those associated with alcohol and heroin
withdrawaL. We further recommended that JHS assess its basic care protocols, such as
documentation of continued dosing of medicines prescribed by HMC providers, and the
number of times per day vital signs are checked. Finally, we recommended that JHS
further assess its quality improvement program to ensure adequate continuity of care
and that apparent lapses in care are detected before, rather than merely after, catastrophic results.

While DPH's response does not address the specifics of Mr. Iszley's case or this Office's findings, DPH did discuss its ongoing efforts to improve JHS systems of care. (See Appendix 0 to this report.) It is unclear from DPH's response whether all of the stated improvements were initiated following Mr. Iszley's death. However, Mr. Iszley's death may have been preventable, and this Office therefore urges JHS to ensure that its review of this case is complete and, where necessary, to fully institute reforms that will ensure that future patients receive the medical care they need while in King County custody. We look forward to learning more about DPH's efforts to improve in the future. (Yeah, GOOD LUCK!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

King County Lets Low-Risk Prisoner Die in Agony

Were this a deviation from the norm at King County's Jail it might merit some explanatory commentary. Unfortunately, the agonizing and painful death of this young man (who did not commit a serious crime) is completely in keeping with the abominable conditions at the King County so-called correctional facilities. Herewith is the matter as reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Investigation finds caregivers ignored symptoms before King County Jail inmate's death

Seattle Times staff reporter

An investigation into the medical care provided to inmate Lynn Dale Iszley has found that his death from a perforated ulcer in the King County Jail on July 19 was as unnecessary as it was grisly, according to a report issued this morning by the King County ombudsman.

Two medical experts who reviewed Iszley's Jail Health Services file say caregivers overlooked or ignored symptoms that the 48-year-old inmate was in serious medical trouble the day before he died, including signs of acute dehydration and pain so severe that it left him sweating and writhing on his cell floor.

In a letter to the ombudsman, officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County said they are addressing many of the issues raised by Iszley's death.

Iszley's death was also addressed in a sharply critical report issued in November by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, which found that inmates at the jail in downtown Seattle suffered violence and sexual harassment at the hands of guards and "life-threatening" deficiencies in some inmate health care.

In the ombudsman's report, the experts found that the jail's medical staff failed to act on Iszley's escalating symptoms after he was booked into jail on July 16 for a minor drug-possession charge. He was treated with Motrin — a drug one of the experts said was inappropriate in a case of severe abdominal pain — and given oral fluids that he could not hold down as his heart rate soared above 130 beats per minute and his blood pressure dropped.

Moreover, one of the experts who reviewed the files said other drugs administered to treat Iszley's nausea "may have exacerbated his condition" given the undetected rupture in his stomach.

An autopsy found nearly two-thirds of a gallon of fecal matter had leaked into his abdomen through the ulcer, causing an infection that killed him.

"From an outside observer perspective is [sic] appears to me that they let this man suffer and did nothing," wrote Dr. Lori Kohler, the director of the Correctional Medicine Consultation Network and a professor of clinical family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

"It is unlikely that they would tolerate this kind of agony in a friend or family member," Kohler wrote of Iszley's three days of documented suffering in the jail. "His misery is quite obvious."

Iszley's mother, Lois Clayton of Seattle, called the ombudsman's findings shocking. She said she didn't realize how long her son had been denied treatment.

"I think it shows they just didn't pay any attention to him," she said this morning. "They just let him suffer."

Dr. Dean Dellinger, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, said that Iszley's history of alcohol and drug abuse may have complicated the diagnosis and lessened his chances of survival. Still, he told the ombudsman, jail health officials should have recognized that his symptoms were not typical of an addict in withdrawal.


"Mr. Iszley's chance of survival would have been significantly improved if he had been diagnosed ... within 12-24 hours" of when his ulcer ruptured, Dellinger wrote.

Both doctors say that likely occurred about 4:40 a.m. July 18 when Iszley called for a guard and reported terrible pain: One jail guard wrote in the case log, "I asked him what was happening and his [sic] said it 'felt like his liver exploded.' "

After he was found on the floor of his cell, shaky, covered in sweat and unable to sit up without help, Iszley was examined by a nurse and left on the cell block, where he remained until nearly 10 a.m. the next day. He complained that he could not eat, was vomiting and nauseous, and had not urinated in three days — a symptom of severe dehydration.

He was awake throughout the night and made small talk with the guard. Around 6 a.m. on July 19, Iszley tried to retrieve his medications, but "stumbled and was helped back to his bunk" by other inmates, wrote one guard. A nurse checked on him, but he was left in the cell.

An hour later, he was found unconscious. He was pronounced dead at 7:46 a.m.

"Based on his symptoms, [Jail Health Services] providers should have, but failed to, recognize that Mr. Iszley was suffering from an acute illness other than withdrawal," wrote Senior Deputy Ombudsman Jon Stier, who led the investigation at the behest of Iszley's family.

Had Iszley received intravenous fluids and been taken to the hospital when his symptoms worsened on the 18th, Stier wrote, he "might have survived. ... "

In December 2006, the ombudsman detailed jail health problems in a report to the Metropolitan King County Council. In March 2007, a Seattle Times report revealed turmoil in the jail health-care system that has led to deaths and inadequate treatment.

A poor m*th*r-f*cker picked up simply for having the wrong kinds of drugs on him -- those self-prescribed versus those which are state approved. This was a very ugly and painful death. NOBODY deserves this kind of treatment. In the farthest corner of Somalia, an ugly prison outpost would try hard to top this horror story.

Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment

Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment

On December 31, 2005, there were 2,193,798 people in U.S. prisons and jails. The United States incarcerates a greater share of its population, 737 per 100,000 residents, than any other country on the planet. But when you break down the statistics you see that incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment.

U.S. incarceration rates by race, June 30, 2006:

  • Whites: 409 per 100,000
  • Latinos: 1,038 per 100,000
  • Blacks: 2,468 per 100,000

Gender is an important "filter" on the who goes to prison or jail, June 30, 2006:

  • Females: 134 per 100,000
  • Males: 1,384 per 100,000

Look at just the males by race, and the incarceration rates become even more frightening, June 30, 2006:

  • White males: 736 per 100,000
  • Latino males: 1,862 per 100,000
  • Black males: 4,789 per 100,000

If you look at males aged 25-29 and by race, you can see what is going on even clearer, June 30, 2006:

  • For White males ages 25-29: 1,685 per 100,000.
  • For Latino males ages 25-29: 3,912 per 100,000.
  • For Black males ages 25-29: 11,695 per 100,000. (That's 11.7% of Black men in their late 20s.)

Or you can make some international comparisons:
South Africa under Apartheid was internationally condemned as a racist society.

  • South Africa under apartheid (1993), Black males: 851 per 100,000
  • U.S. under George Bush (2006), Black males: 4,789 per 100,000

What does it mean that the leader of the "free world" locks up its Black males at a rate 5.8 times higher than the most openly racist country in the world?

Statistics as of June 30, 2006 from Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2006, Table 14. The "rates by race" statistics are calculated from the component parts of Table 14. South Africa figures from Marc Mauer, Americans Behind Bars: The International Use of Incarceration. All references to Blacks and Whites are for what the Bureau of Justice Statistics and U.S. Census refer to as "non-Hispanic Blacks" and "non-Hispanic Whites".)

View the above facts with charts or download the above as a 1 page PDF file suitable for redistribution

Seattle Town Hall Meeting on Caring for Our Animals

Dow Constantine's Reply

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the King County Jail.

As you stated, the Department of Justice last year conducted an investigation of the King County Jail and issued a letter that made three major claims:

-- That guards were witnessed using an inappropriate level of force against inmates,

-- That suicide-prevention protocols are insufficient, and

--That the level of medical care is inadequate.

The Department of Justice has submitted a settlement proposal which the King County Council recently reviewed in preparation for a formal response. This process has been conducted at the same time as the Council's review of animal shelter services and was not delayed by it. The presence of other problems does not excuse the cruel and inhumane treatment of helpless animals, or their killing.

Thanks again for writing.


Dow Constantine

King County Councilmember

District Eight

Dear Dow,
I got the flyer announcing your town meeting on our county-run pet shelters. It's good to know that you care about what happens to stray cats and dogs, they are sentient creatures and deserve consideration and humane treatment. But to my mind there are more pressing problems confronting the county right now, and one of those problems is the crisis at the King County Jail. Serious problems have been festering at the jail for years: overcrowding, prisoner abuse, MRSA infections, deaths . . . problems so serious that the United States Justice Department did a special investigation and "blasted" the jail in a recent report: Shocking as it is, the Justice Department report is only one of many such stories on the jail to hit the headlines in recent months.
To my disappointment, King County Executive Ron Sims denies that there's a problem at the jail. (This doesn't really surprise me since Sims would have to shoulder much of the blame if he ever owned up to the problem.) In any case, if Ron Sims won't fix this problem, then it's up to the County Council to do it.
I don't mean to sound patronizing, but honestly, as bad as the situation with stray animals might be right now, I think the crisis at the jail (which houses human beings) is even more of a crisis, and accordingly deserves more of your attention. I think you should redirect your efforts to fixing the problems at the jail first, and then move on to the shelters.
Thanks for your consideration of this timely issue.