Wednesday, April 16, 2008

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.

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