Friday, May 23, 2008

Penalty urged for lewd e-mails at jail

By Nancy Bartley
Seattle Times staff reporter

Five King County corrections officers are facing three-day suspensions for passing sexually explicit videos, cartoons and photos through the county e-mail.

It's the latest in a string of sexual-misconduct offenses and medical complaints that have plagued the jail over the past few years. Jail Superintendent Reed Holtgeerts recommended the suspension for the officers, who have not been named. But before it goes into effect, they have the right to present evidence that might explain their actions.

The e-mails were found in September and a decision to discipline the employees was reached in November. The officers all work at the downtown Seattle jail, said jail spokesman Maj. William Hayes.

The jail issued a statement on the incident only on Wednesday. Hayes said it took the department time to complete its investigation.

A U.S. Department of Justice report released in November criticized the jail for not controlling infectious diseases and for exposing inmates to sexual assaults. The jail has a no-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct, said Hayes.

The jail administration did not agree with the findings of the Justice Department's report, which threatened the county with a lawsuit if the jail's problems were not corrected. At least two inmates died from inadequate medical care and there were three jail suicides in the past three years that were likely preventable, the report noted.

Since then, a former inmate, Matthew Wisecarver, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging jail conditions were so unsanitary he contracted MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant infection. One inmate died of an infection in 2004. In 2003, the number of infections at the jail increased from 291 to 623.

Four King County corrections officers have been convicted of sexual misconduct and related charges over the past several years.

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or

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