Local News

Story published: 07-09-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

County attorney recommends padded cells at Washington County Detention Center

By Karen Sells
Assistant Editor

The growing difficulty in dealing with inmates’ mental health issues has County Attorney John Rambo recommending a padded cell for the Washington County jail.

“The Detention Center is one of the biggest liabilities for any county, and certainly for Washington County,” Rambo said during last week’s called meeting of the Budget Committee.

Of special concern are inmates intent on harming themselves. “These (instances) require officers to place themselves in danger because they have to open the cell door,” Rambo said.

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said the Detention Center recently received a call from a local mental health facility to pick up a patient on suicide watch.

“(Rambo) recommended we not pick up the patient because jail was not an appropriate (destination),” he said.

While logical, that response only creates another problem, according to Chief Operating Officer Leighta Laitinen. “The facilities say, ‘If you don’t pick them up, we’re setting them loose,’” she said.

Laitinen referred to an incident in which a female inmate inflicted significant damage to her face before the officers could get inside the cell to stop her. “Her mother sued and said she was beat up,” Laitinen said, adding the jail could use two padded cells.

According to Graybeal, the Detention Center has become a mental health facility due to cutbacks in state services.

“Any tool we can give them will save the county money in the long term,” Rambo said.

Commissioner Joe Grandy made a motion to add $60,000 to the proposed debt offering to equip the jail with two padded cells.

The motion was seconded by Commissioner Pete Speropulos and passed with unanimous approval.