Letter to the Editor from the San Juan County Prosecutor and Sheriff

Dear Editor:

We were shocked to learn of the death of Keaton Farris at the Island County jail, and we remain saddened by the tragedy. Our heart goes out to Keaton’s mom and dad and his extended family.

Right after the incident your Sheriff and Prosecuting Attorney traveled to Island County to ask: What happened in the days leading up to this event? What was the cause of death? The Sheriff of Island County Sheriff Mark Brown took charge, and Detective Ed Wallace was not shy to provide the answers in a written report which has been explained in great detail. With this report in hand, the settlement with the family was sure to follow because it documented the systemic failures in dealing with the mentally ill at the jail.

All too often, leaders shy away from tragedy, being unwilling to talk about their ideas for change for fear it will expose something that should have been done sooner. Island County Sheriff Mark Brown’s clear and decisive actions in the face of this tragedy are refreshing.

This past year, the legislature adopted a measure which will expand choices available to prosecutors so that low-level cases can be dismissed when the mentally ill obtain private treatment services. Good. But there is a need also for those who can’t afford private treatment services. The legislature needs to assure that there are resources for people in need, wherever they may live, and especially in our jails.

Randall Gaylord and Ron Krebs

Prosecuting Attorney and Sheriff