View Full Version : Where are suspects kept while awaiting trial? (Washington State)

10-10-2009, 11:05 AM
My MC has been wrongly arrested for murder in Washington State. Where will he most likely be held? I always thought suspects were held in county jails and then transferred to prison if convicted. But some research shows many are held in correctional facilities which I understand is another name for prison.

If suspects are held in prison before the verdict, are they treated as ordinary prisoners, or are they placed in a special wing? I want to put my MC in the worst possible place before his trial, so where would that be according to the law?


10-10-2009, 04:10 PM
I'm not in Washington, but here in New Hampshire our county jails are also correctional facilities, they call themselves "corrections." Suspects awaiting trial are held at county facilities until they are convicted, when they go where they need to go to serve the sentence. Some will serve their sentences at the county jail. (DWI, that sort of thing.) In a recent case of four teenagers accused of home invasion and murder, they are all being held at county jails awaiting trial. They are all separated out from the general population because of the nature of the crime.

Here's a news story about it:


Officials said the suspects will remain inside county facilities throughout the entire trial process.

Hope this helps.

10-10-2009, 05:35 PM
Jeseymour is right on the New Hampshire system, for the simple answer. And looking on the web indicates that Washington has some name confusion going on, which makes it harder to figure out for sure what they do.

Basic system is that jails are used for people who are being held pre-trail or with a sentence of less than one year. Prison is used for people who are sentenced to one year and a day or more. Normally jails are run by cities and/or counties, and prisons are run by the state. This seems to be the basic model that Washington uses.

However, it's not this simple. Within each system (jail or prison) are different levels of security. For example, New Hampshire's prison in Concord, NH has the following levels: Secure Housing Unit (maximum security), Closed Custody Unit (level below maximum security), Medium North and South, Protective Custody Unit (people who need protection from other inmates and are in medium custody), Intake Unit (new prisoners awaiting assignment to a permanent unit), and Minimum Security (outside the walls). This prison is exclusively for men.

Also for men New Hampshire had a minimum security facility in Laconia, NH and a medium security facility in Berlin, NH. Women are sent to the Women's Prison in Goffstown, NH. Goffstown does not have a maximum security unit and women needed that level of security are sent out of state.

Within the county system is a similar variation of security levels. For example, Hillsborough County or Valley Street (same place, more commonly referred to as Valley Street) has maximum security, although not to the same level as the state prison. Merrimack County does not have a maximum security section and inmates are transferred to Valley Street or the state prison if they are disciplinary problems.

Some counties do not have any facilities for women, and their female inmates are transferred either to another county or the state prison.

My guess in looking at the various websites is Washington is substantially similar.

Pretrail detainees are not treated differently from sentenced inmates, other than pretrail does not entitle you to certain programs. However, someone serving ten days on a drunk driving charge is probably not going to be held in the same unit as a pretrail murderer. An inmate's propensity to violence, based on crime, arrest history, and behavior, determine where they are assigned within a prison/jail.

In New Hampshire (and I would guess in Washington), a murder suspect would be placed within a unit with a fair amount of security and lower amount of privileges. This unit would include violent criminals, as opposed to a unit that has inmates who are just druggies or thieves. If his arrest was violent, or he/she is off the wall inside the facility, they'd be placed in the maximum section for the facility. If they can't behave then, they are sent to the State Prison and placed in the Secure Housing Unit (which in NH is a super-max unit). You can act up all you want there and no one cares. Twenty-three hours a day locked down in your cell by yourself, with nothing in it, and the one hour outdoor time at the judgment of the guards whether you deserve it.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Wayne K
10-10-2009, 05:40 PM
They keep unsentenced prisoners away from general population until sentencing. I would assume it's a segregated unit you have in Washington.

10-10-2009, 06:00 PM
Thanks everyone. Very helpful.

Linda Adams
10-10-2009, 11:00 PM
Though this was 1994, when one of the soldiers in my military unit was being held for manslaughter, he was held in the Thurston county jail. That was where the crime was committed.

10-24-2009, 05:36 AM
Accused of murder, my guess is they'd stay in the "correctional facility" (you're right, this is a jail -- although the new one in Everett sure looks spiffy and is right downtown!) until trial. However, if they had no prior convictions and there was no reason to fear they'd skip town, they may be released on bail until trial. I doubt an accusation of murder would allow them to be out on personal cognizance, which basically means they're nice and mellow enough that nobody thinks they'll miss their trial date and so they can get out of jail without bail. I know that happens for class C felonies in Washington State, but not sure about murder. Probably not, but you never know what kind of loopholes exist.

Better not to ask how I know about class C felonies in WA. ;)

(it wasn't me. It was somebody I know.)

Linda Adams
10-24-2009, 02:48 PM
Just thought of a way of getting some research that would likely answer the question: Tacoma News Tribune or the Seattle Times. Both the newspapers would likely cover major crimes and may mention disposition of the suspects awaiting trials. Online for the last two weeks is probably free.

10-24-2009, 04:57 PM
Having served on Jury duty many times in King County Washington, I can assure you that those charged by the state are held in the county jail until a verdict is renedered and sentence pronounced.

If the feds charge you, I'm not sure.

10-24-2009, 08:04 PM
As mentioned above, there's the possibility of bail for any crime - it's in the constitution. If your character couldn't make bail, he'd be held in a segregated wing of the county jail. The are only a few reasons to withhold bail or to set unreasonably high bail. You should address this in your story.