jail deaths

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The day the brand new Mason County, Washington jail opened in 1985, it was already full. The previous jail on the top floor of the courthouse held just over 40 inmates. The new facility wasn't much bigger.  

Nearly 35 years later, the one-story cinder block jail located in the town of Shelton now holds about 90 inmates on any given day. A few years back, as many as 150 people were crowded into the facility.

Sarah Eden Wallace

On Feb. 26, 2014, staff booked Shannon Jefferson into the Whatcom County Jail for a probation violation and failing to appear in court on a fourth degree assault charge.

Twelve days later, Jefferson tied a bed sheet to the window in her isolation cell and hanged herself. She was 36-years-old and the mother of six.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The practice of locking up people who are chronically sick, mentally ill or drug addicted in under-resourced city, county and regional jails in Washington is resulting in inmate deaths and a failure to “treat all people humanely, respectfully, and safely,” according to a new report by the statewide nonprofit law firm Columbia Legal Services.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Four years ago this month, 25-year-old Keaton Farris died naked, dehydrated and malnourished on the floor of an isolation cell in the Island County Jail on Whidbey Island. Farris, who was bipolar and in the throes of a mental health crisis, had been arrested 18 days earlier for failing to appear in court for allegedly stealing and cashing a $355 check.