The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil-rights investigation into the King County Jail in Seattle, focusing on sexual abuse of inmates and on allegations of inadequate suicide prevention and contagious-disease control, reports the Seattle Times. Two former jail guards have been convicted of sex-related acts with female inmates and a third is awaiting a retrial.
A report commissioned by the county and released two weeks ago found that a sexualized work environment, meager training, and poor communication are among the root causes of the string of sexual-misconduct allegations against corrections officers. Seven inmates have committed suicide while in custody since Jan. 1, 1999. They include three hangings, two self-induced poisonings, a suicide by jumping and a carbon-monoxide asphyxiation by an inmate on home confinement.