Sick and jailed
A Washington state superior court judge dismissed a case brought by Columbia Legal Services (CLS) that sought to force the Washington state Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Health (DOH) to better protect incarcerated people from COVID-19.
In a release, the legal advocacy organization argued that while vaccines are now accessible to incarcerated people and there are additional protections from unvaccinated staff, conditions within the prisons continue to be risky and that vaccination rates trail the general public by nearly 25 percent.
At the time of the lawsuit’s dismissal on May 27, the three facilities where the plaintiffs were incarcerated were all in lockdown due to coronavirus outbreaks, according to CLS. While in lockdown, inmates are confined to their cells for 22 hours of the day, cannot go to meals, participate in programs that are meant to facilitate reentry, or see loved ones.
The dismissal comes more than a year after the lawsuit was filed.
Bridging the gap
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced on May 26 that its contractor had finished pouring structural concrete inside the West Seattle Bridge, bringing the repair project one big step closer to completion.
SDOT shuttered the bridge in March 2020 when workers discovered severe structural cracks. Even with progress on the concrete work, officials still expect the bridge to reopen in mid-2022.
Work on the bridge hit a snag when concrete workers launched a several-month-long strike that impacted major construction projects in the region. The unavailability of concrete became so troubling to elected officials that King County Executive Dow Constantine floated the idea of getting local government into the concrete business to prevent future delays to construction projects.
However, SDOT wrote, workers were able to do other pieces of the repair job while the concrete workers were on strike.
The King County Council unanimously confirmed Patti Cole-Tindall as the county’s new sheriff. Cole-Tindall has been the undersheriff since 2020 and has held other positions within county government including chief of the Technical Services Division and director of the King County Office of Labor Relations.
Cole-Tindall is the first sheriff appointed under a change to the county’s charter approved by voters in 2020 that takes the position off the ballot. Proponents of the measure argued that putting the decision in the hands of elected officials would remove the influence of special interest groups and politics.
Former Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and County Councilmember Reagan Dunn wrote a rebuttal, saying that partisan lawmakers already controlled the Sheriff’s Office budget and that allowing them to appoint the sheriff as well would dismantle the system of checks and balances.
Read more of the Jun 1-7, 2022 issue.