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New Jail Needs More Security

Fri., Sept. 19, 1997

King County plans to spend half a million dollars to bolster security at the new Regional Justice Center here, adding items ranging from new motion detectors and razor wire, to new phone cords.

The changes, to be implemented over the next two or three months, were outlined at a public meeting Wednesday night by Jail Director Art Wallenstein and King County Executive Ron Sims.

“That jail will be secure operationally and physically” as a result of additional layers of security, Sims said.

Two inmates broke out of the jail Sept. 9 after scaling a basketball backboard in an exercise yard, then making their way to an open ledge and cutting through an overhead chain-link barrier with wire ripped from a pay phone.

One of the escapees, 28-year-old Kinnick Sanford, was captured Sept. 12 in Los Angeles. He broke out while awaiting sentencing on an attempted murder conviction.

Still at large is Vanna Rann, 17, who was awaiting trial on first-degree assault charges.

“So far no one has been killed, by the grace of God. But we don’t know yet what will happen because we have one still at large,” said Nancy Brown, one of about 55 citizens who attended the presentation.

Esther Smith, president of the local American Association of Retired Persons, said seniors in the community were worried.

“The senior community is fearful and incensed at the system failure,” she said. She noted there are seven senior housing facilities near the jail.

Suzette Cooke, a Republican state representative from Kent opposing Democrat Sims for county executive, wanted to know why a report raising security concerns by corrections officers had not been more carefully addressed.

Wallenstein said while the report had value, it did not detail the unforeseen problems that led to the escape.

Money for the improvements will come from existing funds provided by a tax levy voters approved to build the Regional Justice Center and won’t require a new appropriation, Sims said.

Some of the changes include:

The addition of new rooftop motion detectors at a cost of $200,000. Previously, the motion detectors only covered about 60 percent of the roof. The new monitors will trigger additional rooftop lighting.

The installation of razor wire to the underside of all recreation yard roof enclosures at a cost of $160,000.

A second security grid made out of stainless steel to be installed over the existing chain-link ceilings in recreation yards at a cost of $100,000.

In addition, any exposed ledges in exercise yards will be covered with security steel and basketball backboards will be moved to areas in the recreation yards covered by a concrete ceiling to prevent access to the roof, Sims said.

Current phone cords with will be replaced with cords made from a different material to keep them from being used as saws. The phone cords will also be made shorter.

Wallenstein confirmed Wednesday that the men managed to cut through the chain-link by using a steel telephone cord with Brillo pads on each end as a grip.

Inmates will no longer be allowed to use the recreational area at night. Last week’s jail break took place at 9:30 p.m.

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