The plight of inmates in the rather newly built Thurston County Corrections facility, which only opened its doors in late 2015, is becoming drastic. The inmate overcrowding is a threatening problem that exceeds the purpose for which the jail was constructed–to accommodate the influx of inmates that the previous jail is alleged to have possessed an inadequacy for doing so.
Due to the Thurston County Corrections facility being underfunded and incompletely constructed, there is an insufficient amount of space to properly house inmates, leading to inmates being forced to shoulder the weight of unjust treatment that equates to inmates’ rights being trampled upon and hammered by a gavel of injustice.
Day after day, night after night, inmates are herded three to a cell that is designed and constructed to only house two. The third inmate is resigned to sleeping on a mat on the concrete floor next to the toilet, while being refused the required bed to elevate himself up off of the floor and is often forced to exist under these circumstances for time periods spanning upwards of a month.
Frequently an inmate is known to be violent, mentally ill, physically ill, or in the throes of withdrawal at the time that the inmate is placed in the cell with you. When forced to coexist three to a cell under twenty-two to twenty-three hour-day periods, it is no stretch of the imagination that physical illnesses will be contracted and violence will be given birth in these confined quarters.
On multiple occasions, inmates report being assaulted by one or both of their cellmates. Recently a twenty-three-year-old mentally ill man diagnosed with schizophrenia was violently assaulted by one of his cellmates while housed in a cell with two other individuals. After suffering through those terrifying moments of assault when this inmate was unsure of whether he should fight, flight, or freeze, the mentally ill individual was then stripped of his cell and then moved into my cell where he occupied the floor for three weeks.
With three confined to a cell, contracting physical illnesses from one another is a likelihood that is beyond obvious. Once an inmate contracts a physical illness, whether infectious or not, he is left to recuperate in a cell with two other inmates regardless of these inmates’ objections and concerns for their personal health.
In one incident an inmates wa placed in a cell with two other individuals after informing medical staff and deputies that he had bronchitis, where immediately afterwards one of his cellmates, last Hill, contracted bronchitis. When inmate Hill informed deputies of his recently contracted illness he was told to “consider it a lesson.”
When any of these individuals inform jail staff of what they are forced to endure they are responded to with abrasiveness and told to file a grievance. However, when an inmate requests a grievance form he is informed that his issue is non-grievable by deputies that are not qualified to make that judgment or simply seek to protect their co-workers and employer, the Thurston County Jail/Sheriff’s Department.
It is exactly inhumane treatment by those who are sworn to uphold the ethical principles of justice—while remaining accountable to no one—that is the weight of injustice. When those who are sworn to uphold justice pound you with a fist of injustice, then who are you to turn to for justice? The Thurston County Corrections facility, which is responsible for securing and ensuring an inmate’s safety and individual rights, is the exact entity that jeopardizes that safety and holds an inmate’s individual rights at gun point.
Whether African-American (as I am) Hispanic, Native-American, or white, ensuring that an inmate’s safety, personal health, and individual rights are guaranteed rather than a privilege in the Thurston County Corrections facility, remains a work in progress…
Johnathan Stanley was held in the Thurston County Corrections facility until recently.