KING COUNTY, Wash. — In a rare move, the unions representing the King County Corrections officers and public defenders believe that some inmates should be released because of a COVID-19 spike.
A letter, sent late Friday to every key elected leader, suggests that roughly a third of inmates in Seattle and Kent are infected with COVID or are in quarantine. Another 50 corrections officers are sick, according to the letter, signed by Sundee Berg, vice president of the King County Corrections Guild, and President Molly Gilberts of the King County Public Defense Chapter.
"COVID-19 should not be a death sentence for anyone held in jail or anyone working in jail," the letter reads. It makes several suggestions including, "make plans for the immediate release of all misdemeanor and non-violent offenders."
The Seattle Mayor's Office and King County Prosecutor's office acknowledged Tuesday that they are considering such a proposal on a case-by-case basis.
However, Casey McNerthney, spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor's Office said, "I don't think what you'll see is the doors flung open and a number of repeat offenders back out on the streets."
Instead, the office is reviewing court hearing schedules and looking at the possibility of moving inmates to other state run or county facilities.
Seattle Council Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold told KING 5 via email: "Of the 1,363 detainees, 48 of them are Seattle misdemeanants. The Council recently approved funding for more Electronic Home Monitoring to ensure that when the City Attorney is seeking prosecution that the Seattle Municipal Court can order alternatives that do not rely on detention. I am going to meet with the Corrections Officers and DPD to see how I can best assist with their efforts to improve staffing and workplace safety."