Graveyard Shift

Dealing with the drunk and suicidal at the Spokane County Jail

Scene from an early Saturday morning at jail. - JOE KONEK
Joe Konek
Scene from an early Saturday morning at jail.

It’s almost 4 am, and she won’t stop yelling. You have to go into this room, they tell her. You have to wear the yellow jumpsuit.

Five women are crowded inside a cold, narrow cell early on a Saturday morning. Three of them wear black Sheriff’s Office uniforms, with handcuffs clipped to their belts. One, a nurse, has a stethoscope around her neck and takes notes on a blank piece of paper folded in half.

The fifth is Jasmine, and she’s saying she wants to kill herself.

“I’m the victim here,” she screams. Her long chestnut hair and dark eyeliner make her look more like a movie star cast in some dysfunctional role than a drunken 30-year-old brought into Spokane County jail on a domestic violence call.

“Do your f---ing job!” she shouts.

The women coax off one piece of her clothing at a time, tossing them out the cell door to three male officers who take inventory — two pairs of pants, red cotton shorts, underwear, two black tank tops — and put everything in a teal canvas bag.

The officers lock the door, roll their eyes and walk away. She’s still yelling, but no one is listening anymore. Officers are filling out paperwork. They’re sipping coffee and Arizona Iced Tea, and two of them are talking about a place in town that has great breakfast burritos. Sometime around 4:40 am, Jasmine starts kicking the door.

“I am going to have a panic attack,” she screams. “I’m going to throw myself up against this concrete wall. You’re going to have a wrongful death suit on your hands.”

The officers don’t know the details of her arrest or what drugs she’s been using. All they know is they can’t take any chances.

“We’re going to get you out of here,” a blonde officer, her nails perfectly manicured, tells Jasmine. “Turn around and put your hands through the door.”

Keys clank against the cell door. The officer handcuffs Jasmine and leads her out to a big black chair with straps for restraining people who threaten to hurt themselves or officers. It’s usually not an easy process getting someone strapped down, but Jasmine isn’t fighting back. She throws her head back and takes a deep breath. Her bare feet stick out of the yellow jumpsuit as straps tighten over her shoulders, then her wrists, then around her ankles.

“Thank you,” Jasmine says.

Another officer tilts the chair back and rolls it into the cell. Jasmine looks confused, but she’s quiet. The officers go back to work. One of them files a report about the whole thing.

Then, Jasmine realizes she’s still in that yellow jumpsuit, the one for inmates on suicide watch. She’s still in that narrow room.

It’s 4:52 am, and she won’t stop yelling.

Golden Harvest: Flour Sacks from the Permanent Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 15
  • or

About The Author

Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...