Megan Pedersen is stepping into the role of temporary special deputy to the executive in order to support the implementation of improvement inside King County correctional facilities, Executive Dow Constantine announced on Aug.t 26.
Pedersen’s appointment is in response to ongoing impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has on people in custody and staff. She currently serves as the director of the office of labor relations, but her new temporary role will provide additional support relating to staffing, operational, and health and safety issues inside King County’s correctional facilities.
“We have been moving forward on multiple fronts to improve the living conditions for people in custody and increase support for our workforce,” said Constantine in a Friday news release. “Bringing Megan Pedersen into this temporary role — with her extensive background in labor relations — is exactly what we need right now to best support the great work our DAJD and JHS leadership and staff are doing to address these critical issues.”
According to Constantine, the population of King County’s daily adult jails averaged at 1,575 people in July. While current levels are approximately 400 fewer people than the pre-COVID average, current levels are at least 240 more than during the first two years of the pandemic. King County has two adult jails: King County Correctional Facility in Seattle, and the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
Vacancies within the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) have occured since mid-2020. DAJD has over 100 corrections officer vacancies out of 505 budgeted positions. To address these shortages, DAJD provided retention bonuses of $4,000 for corrections officers and sergeants.
Since January, DAJD has hired 42 new corrections officers.
Further vacancies have swept Jail Health Services (JHS), which has about 60 unfilled health staff positions. To temporarily fill these positions for patient care support, JHS hired 33 contracted staff.
JHS has hired 26 new health staff positions since the beginning of this year.
While under pending approval from the King County Council, the county and Corrections Guild reached an agreement on a new comprehensive labor contract which includes increasing wages, temporary wage increases for voluntary overtime, and contracting out or reassigning certain functions to immediately transfer at least 12 officers back to critical coverage assignments, among others.
“I am honored to be appointed to this new role as Special Deputy to the Executive,” said Pedersen. “I look forward to the opportunity to work closely with the leadership of Adult Juvenile Detention, Jail Health Services, the Department of Public Defense, and our labor partners, to bring a one-team approach to the vital work of promoting the well-being of those in custody and our staff.”