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Living Images

Don Seabrook | Inside the jail

There are few places and occasions where I have to continually ask permission to photograph subjects. One place is a hospital where regulations require written permission from any patient that can be recognized in a photograph I hope to publish. Another one is a jail.

There aren’t many standard requirements for shooting photographs in a jail other that what the local jail director asks for. In Chelan County, the director wants to avoid trivial lawsuits so he requires permissions like a hospital.

I was there to document what the Chelan County Regional Justice Center is like for inmates and for jailers. It’s a pretty straightforward assignment once the contacts have been made and the day and time set.

One of the first interesting situations I saw to photograph was a security room near the booking area. Behind a heavy screen, jail crew were looking up at monitors watching as a recently booked man was in a holding cell taking an aggressive stance, ready to pounce on anyone opening his door.

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Jail supervisors and officers check a bank of video screens to monitor the few cells that are under surveillance at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center on May 9, 2019. On this morning, they are watching a person in a booking cell who looks like he is getting ready to charge the door if an officer were to open it. The jail hopes to increase video monitoring throughout the building.

I like this photograph because of how much the screen takes your attention. Usually I would avoid such a distraction but inside a jail, security measures are a big focus.

We took the elevator up some floors to begin cell checks for the day and the first room we entered behind heavily locked doors took us into a large room with individual cells. Prisoners were standing outside the doors for inspection. It was intimidating to enter the room and then ask prisoners for permission to photograph them but two inmates were OK with it. I got their permission before the inspection so I could photograph a jailer looking over their cells. It would be the lead photograph of the main story.

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From left, inmates Julio Cesar Pantoja and Maximiliano Morales Rodriguez stand outside their cells during morning bed checks at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center on May 9, 2019. It's a new procedure and part of an incentive program for special food or privileges.

I think this photograph speaks to the distance jailers keep both physically and emotionally with inmates.

We walked down the long hallways toward other rooms behind locked doors, nearly all of them afterward were large cells without individual rooms. This made getting permission nearly impossible, so I centered my attention on the jailers.

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Corrections officers at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center walk a long hallway between cell blocks on May 9, 2019. The design of the 35-year-old building is a problem says Jail Director Bill Larson.

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Jail officers perform a morning bed check at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center on May 9, 2019.

The last cell we went to had been the scene of an assault the night before, so I tried showing the jailers together as a group as they asked questions.

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Officers talk to inmates on May 9, 2019, to try to determine the who assaulted another inmate inside the cell at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center.

A wonderful part of my job is to be able to show our readers parts of our community they normally wouldn’t see.

Photo Editor Don Seabrook: (509)661-5225

Photo Editor

I was born in Wenatchee, went to Eastmont High School, graduated from the University of Washington with a communications degree in journalism. I have a wife and three children.

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