SPOKANE, Wash. - Community members and organization leaders gathered for a march in Spokane Tuesday night to protest the deaths of inmates at the Spokane County Jail.
In the last 14 months, eight inmates have died. The most recent death was August 25.
Organizers called the community march "Not One More," to tell city leaders that another death at the jail will not be tolerated. The march took place from the Salem Lutheran Church to the Spokane County Courthouse.
"We wanted the community to step up and recognize this is happening and that we want to be in the process of holding the system accountable," said Carmen Pacheco-Jones, one of the event's organizers.
It's an issue that hits close to home for Angel Sam, another organizer of the night's march.
"I have family members and close friends who have passed away in the Spokane County Jail," she said.
She says she understands the pain of losing a loved one in jail, and it's time to make a change.
"Something needs to happen all the way around. A fully holistic approach, where it's the community being concerned, enough to let the powers that be, the systems know that things need to change," Sam said.
Organizers feel that change needs to come in the form of compassion.
"We're not assessing blame on any one individual, we're asking to take a look at the policies, take a look at how we are viewing people when they come into jail," said Pacheco-Jones.
Sam and Pacheco-Jones know how the inmates feel, because they used to be in their shoes. Both are recovered addicts who have felt the struggle of detoxing alone in a jail cell.
"I laid on that on that floor, I laid on that bed, I detoxed from heroin multiple times. I felt not only the impact... the disconnect from my community and society, but I also felt the dehumanizing impact, the lack of empathy and compassion," Pacheco-Jones said.
County commissioners say they hear their voices.
"The reason for their march is the same reason why we have been striving on the commission to enact some reforms in our jail," said Commissioner Josh Kerns
Those changes include arming officers with rescue hooks, removing bed sheets from the cells, and providing a drug that helps inmates deal with the symptoms of drug withdrawal. The county is also waiting on the results of an evaluation from a suicide prevention expert.
Kerns does disagree, though, that there is a lack of empathy inside the jail. He says policies must be in place to protect both the inmates and corrections officers.
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