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Franklin County Jail Accused of “Barbaric” Treatment of Prisoners – Lawsuit Filed

Franklin County Jail
Franklin County Jail (KNDU-TV)

On one hand you have a legal-advocacy group claiming mistreatment, on the other side you have the realities of housing some of the toughest,  most hardened criminals in Southeastern Washington.

Seattle-based  Columbia Legal Services has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District court, claiming conditions and treatment of prisoners at the new Franklin County Jail in Pasco are “barbaric” and “inhumane.”     From the Seattle Times:

“..Melissa Lee, an attorney for Columbia Legal Services, described conditions at the newly remodeled jail as some of the worst of more than 20 county jails the organization has examined statewide.  “This (jail) is among the worst, if not the worst, we have seen…It’s more inhumane than what we have seen in other places.”

Columbia Legal Services represents low-income clients around the state. Part of the organization, the Institutions Project, focuses on investigating inmate complaints and possible rights violations in Washington jails, prisons and other facilities.

However, Sheriff Richard Lathim pointed out the jail has to take certain precautions towards prisoners who have or could potentially hurt themselves, others, staff or damage the facility.   He said inmates are often motivated to lie for the hope of getting a plea deal or lighter sentence.  He dismissed the lawsuit at “a bunch of lies.”

Lathim said some inmates have been destructive while in custody, and others have tried to hurt themselves.  Lathim also had this to say about the suit, according to the Times:

“Unfortunately (the attorneys) are liberal and naive and think that if you just get everybody in a big group hug in jail, everybody will be fine. It doesn’t work like that.”

While unfortunately incidents do occur in the jail, and others across the country, Lathim says they are part of the reality of running such a facility, with potentially dangerous citizens being incarcerated.   The 58-page suit lists 8 specific plaintiffs, or inmates, and seeks to stop the jail from practicing alleged inhumane practices.

The suit reportedly claims other forms of mistreatment include:

– Placing inmates in isolation to live in “degrading and deplorable” conditions.

– Forcing inmates to sleep on concrete floors without blankets for extended periods of time.

– Pepper-spraying inmates, then providing no medical attention or way to clean up.

– Unconstitutionally locking inmates down for 23 hours a day.

– Denying inmates access to family visits, phone calls and outdoor activities.

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