DRW attorneys speak to Yakima County Jail inmates through cell doors. From left to right: Sarah Eaton, Kimberly Mosolf, and David Carlson.

 

In December 2018, Disability Rights Washington’s AVID Program finalized a settlement agreement with Yakima County to improve the conditions for individuals with mental illness and other cognitive disabilities housed at Yakima County Jail. The parties worked under a structured negotiation agreement to resolve the legal claims in a less adversarial and costly manner.

This settlement agreement was the product of about two years of collaboration and will be monitored by the AVID Program and a neutral expert to ensure the Yakima County Jail’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.

Here is the full press release:

PRESS RELEASE
Yakima County unveils plan to reform jail mental health services
Release date: December 20, 2018

CONTACT:
Kimberly Mosolf, Attorney
Disability Rights Washington
(206) 324-1521
KimberlyM@dr-wa.org

Director Ed Campbell
Yakima County Dept. of Corrections
(509) 574-1758

Chief Jeremy Welch
Yakima County Dept. of Corrections
(509) 574-1682

YAKIMA –In a first of its kind process, officials from Yakima County worked collaboratively with a jail advocacy group to come up with a bold plan to improve services for people with mental illness in the Yakima County Jail.

In 2016, attorneys from Disability Rights Washington’s Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) program approached the County alleging constitutional violations around the treatment of jail inmates with mental illness or cognitive disabilities. The County reviewed the findings of the group’s multi-month investigation and decided it was best for everyone involved—inmates, jail staff, and the tax payers of Yakima County—to focus on fixing these problems.

The County and AVID have spent the past two years collaborating to develop a plan for improved mental health services designed specifically to meet the needs of Yakima Jail’s staff and inmates.  For example, Yakima County has made improvements in mental health screening and access to treatment, and has committed to reductions in the use of segregation for inmates with mental illness or cognitive disabilities.

“Yakima County’s actions are not only fiscally smart and legally prudent, but also compassionate,” explained Kimberly Mosolf, lead attorney for AVID on this case. “When clear and compelling evidence shows services are not up to the level they need to be, wasting time and money fighting in court hurts inmates and tax payers. I commend Yakima County officials, and especially the jail director Ed Campbell, for the leadership they demonstrated on this issue.  Disability Rights Washington appreciates the collaborative and productive relationship that we have developed with Yakima County.”

“Since May 2016 the Yakima County Department of Corrections has worked collaboratively with Disability Rights of Washington (DRW).” Yakima County Department of Corrections Director Ed Campbell said. “Through our partnership with DRW, we have made substantive improvements to services provided to people in custody with disabilities. Jails have been forced to deal with the rising population of inmates with both mental illness and cognitive disabilities and Yakima County is dedicated to providing improved services to help assist inmates during their incarceration, which will help increase their chances to be successful upon entering back into the community.”

Director Campbell continued, “We are clearly better today in how we provide services and care for people with mental illness and cognitive disabilities through our effective partnership with the Disabilities Rights of Washington staff and AVID Program.”

When someone is in the custody of a county jail, that jail is legally responsible for their medical and mental health care. In recent years, AVID has seen a large increase in the number of people with mental illness or cognitive disabilities held in jails.  AVID routinely monitors jails to see whether they are providing the constitutionally-required level of services for the people in their custody. AVID has visited numerous county jails around Washington and released several reports about the common problems facing jails and the people with disabilities who are held there.

“We have visited every county jail in this state, and we have found areas that need to be improved in every single one,” said Mosolf. “Yakima County Jail serves as an example to other jails on how to step up and do what is necessary to improve services without an expensive and lengthy court battle.”

Case Documents

Press

The Seattle Times: Yakima County jail takes new approach to prisoners with mental illnesses