WENATCHEE, WA.- Corrections staff at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center maintain that working conditions at the jail are unsafe due to staffing shortages. The guards claim the situation is getting worse and they blame County Commissioners with failing to address the matter.
Commissioners announced last week that they had accepted the resignation of Jail Director, Kurt Lutz. They explained that his departure was prompted by budgetary issues and changes in the way modern jails are operated.
“When you start housing prisoners, it’s a very complicated process,” Commissioner Doug England said. “There are so many rules and regulations they have to follow, they have to be done timely and they have to be done right.”
England said the complicated nature of the issue is what drives the cost for the county.
“We’ve been operating at a deficit for a while and having to take money out of the general fund to match shortfalls after all of our partners have paid their share,” England said. “We’re looking at both the funding and the whole process.”
Retired Washington State Patrol commander, Bill Larsen has been appointed as interim director.
“We especially were impressed by his leadership capability, and he will be helping us select a new director,” England said. “We hope they have not only fiscal responsibilities but they have organizational responsibilities and need to be able to fend their case. We have to watch cost, we have to watch safety and we to watch the process.”
Jail employees have issued a news release through their Union Representative, Tom Cash. He said he remains optimistic that the change of leadership will help address some longstanding labor issues.
“This morning we were be able to meet with the interim director Bill Larsen, and we’re cautiously optimistic,” Cash said in an interview with NCWLIFE News. “We’ve been addressing the majority of these concerns over the last ten-plus years and it’s reached a tipping point.”
Cash said jail employees are calling for county staff to address issues with safety in the facility.
“It encompasses the facility, staffing, training and a litany of items that have pretty much gone unaddressed for the past ten-plus years,” Cash said.
The Union maintains in a prepared statement that the issues raised by staff and unaddressed by the County will “Ultimately result in someone being seriously injured or killed.”
They report that three quarters of the daily inmate population is comprised of convicted felons and the mentally ill.
View the full union press release below: