Jefferson: ACLU sues over jail conditions

PORT HADLOCK — The American Civil Liberties Union says the Jefferson County jail is “so far below acceptable standards as to constitute cruel and unusual punishment” and is taking the county to federal court.

The ACLU’s 12-page complaint alleges that health-care staff members are not available to inmates when needed, that a routine ban on psychiatric medication has resulted in seizures and panic attacks, and that inmates are denied basic shelter necessities such as running water and working showers and toilets.

The complaint was filed against Jefferson County as well as Sheriff Pete Piccini, Carla Schuck, the county’s superintendent of corrections, and Sgt. Steve Richmond, the highest-ranking correctional officer at the jail.

The lawsuit also contends that the jail in Port Hadlock is overcrowded. Built to house about 30 inmates, it houses anywhere from 40 to more than 60 inmates at any given time, the lawsuit says.

None of the named plaintiffs was available for comment Tuesday, but Deputy County Administrator David Goldsmith said the jail’s operations are based on the state’s jail standards commission guidelines.

“We’ve been operating the jail the same way over the past several years and haven’t had any prior complaints or problems,” Goldsmith.

“We’ll take a look at the allegations . . . and make sure we’re not operating outside the standards.”

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