An unseen world

I recently had the chance to go behind the scenes in a place I hope you will never see – behind the bars of our jail!

The Pierce County Jail is made up of both the “old jail” and the “new jail” – and operates like a self-contained city.

The jail has a medical facility, a dentist, laundry, kitchen, mental healthcare, and training facilities for Corrections Deputies. Minus the inmates, it reminded me a little of shipboard life in the Navy.

A little bit of background on the “County Jail.”  Our jail is responsible for detaining adult inmates who are awaiting trial and before sentencing.  If the inmate is charged with a misdemeanor, the city or county bringing the charges pays for the confinement.  For the more serious felony charges, the costs are all born by the County.  If an adult is sentenced for up to a year in confinement, they serve their time in the County Jail.  For sentences longer than a year, they are sent off to a prison operated by the Washington Department of Corrections.

As you might imagine, running a jail in a pandemic was very difficult.  Today, a majority of the inmates have mental health issues or come in addicted to fentanyl.  And we have seen a sharp increase in the percentage of inmates who are charged with serious felonies.  All this means the inmates are in the jail awaiting trial for longer periods of time, have more challenging care needs, and are a greater danger to themselves and others – including our Corrections Deputies!

Our deputies working in this tremendously challenging environment are professional, compassionate and respectful – firm and fair.  Whether new on the job like Deputy Lazaro or a veteran with four decades of experience like Deputy Yelle, each person I spoke with was enthusiastic and proud to be part of the jail team.  But they are also ever vigilant.  During my tour, it was clear that Deputy Schiedeck had a keen awareness of our surroundings and was ready to head off any potential trouble.

Take a look at what happens in the Jail in this latest installment of Inside Pierce County:

My thanks to everyone who took time to tell me about their work in the Jail. Special thanks to Major Steve Jones, Deputy Kevin Schiedeck, Deputy Joshua Lazaro, Deputy Rachel Yelle, and of course, K9 Rebel!  Along with their colleagues, they do important work that is absolutely critical to keeping our community safe.

Before I close, I’d like to give a shout out to Cole Roberts, our Deputy Fire Marshal in Emergency Management. He received the thank you note below from residents affected by a fire.  It’s wonderful to see how Cole’s professional manner made all the difference in a stressful situation.  Way to go, Cole!

Dear Mr. Roberts,

I would like to take a moment to thank you.  We were the ones with the RV on fire with the propane tank close to our house.  It is so frightening to have a fire which you see many times a day.  You Mr. Roberts helped us understand the process, what to expect with people contacting us, and your kindness and calmness helped us calm down too.  I mainly remember your face talking to us in our truck window.

Thank you!  You are so good at your job even when you must be exhausted!  The report you sent was thorough and professional.   You are a very special person.  Thank you and blessings to you and yours.

Thanks for reading,