In wake of Island County jail inmate’s death, sheriff announces jail reforms

In response to a report on an inmate’s death, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown announced that he instituted immediate reforms to ensure the safety and health of people in the Island County jail.

The sheriff also named an expert in jail management to review the policies and procedures at the jail. Results of that review are likely to be a couple of months away. Additional changes may be instituted after the full review.

Brown said he was dedicated to transparency as the process of instituting changes continues.

Brown said he opened a dialogue with other agencies to help with the reforms.

The sheriff’s office is now working with Island County Human Services to review all mental health services to inmates.

Mental health professionals from the department will be available every weekday at the jail. They will have direct contact with inmates who express a need or exhibit mental health issues.

The treatment will be comprehensive, according to Brown, and well documented. Health information will be shared with appropriate entities.

Corrections staff members are authorized to transport inmates to the hospital emergency room or request 911 whenever they feel there is a need; approval from a supervisor is not required.

Island County Health Department is reviewing all medical practices and treatments in the jail.

Brown said all medical records received from other agencies and those generated in the jail will be copied and forwarded to the next receiving facility, whether it’s a jail, prison or mental-health facility.

Inmate health takes priority over other issues, Brown said, and corrections deputies can call a jail administrator at any time.

The sheriff said he’s also moving forward with fixing the surveillance system in the jail. A replacement server was ordered to allow 16 current cameras to record. He is requesting 16 additional cameras to cover areas in the jail that aren’t currently being covered.

He said he’s also ensuring that supervisors are reviewing safety cell logs every two hours, as policy dictates.

“Through these changes, we have already made substantial progress in improving our policies and procedures in keeping our inmates safe and healthy,” Brown said.

“We will continue to keep the public informed as more changes are recommended and implemented.”

Keaton Farris, a 25-year-old Lopez Island man and former Coupeville student, was suffering from mental health issues and died in the jail from dehydration April 8.

A detective’s report on the tragedy was released earlier this month. It describes how the jailers’ failure to follow basic policies led to the tragedy.

Since then, the jail chief retired, the second-in-command supervisor was fired and two corrections deputies who falsified logs quit.