Saturday, September 30, 2023

Safety concern: Adams Co. Jail in need of repairs, staffing to reopen

Staff Writer | March 15, 2023 1:30 AM

RITZVILLE — Adams County Sheriff Dale Wagner said the situation facing Adams County in its efforts to reopen and maintain the county jail is not unique.

“There are a couple of sheriffs who called me (recently) and said, ‘How did you shut your jail down? Because we can’t do it right now.’ Everybody is dealing with it,” he said.

The jail is a semi-detached portion of the Adams County Courthouse, with a separate entrance off North Washington Street. It was closed in May 2022 following an inmate’s attack on another inmate and a corrections officer that left both severely injured. The 20-bed jail had a staff of nine people, some of whom, Wagner said, were relatively new.

“We had a couple of meetings, talking about wellness and making sure everybody was good,” Wagner said. “Obviously you want to educate all the staff about safety and those kinds of things. Well, within two or three days, all staff members but four quit.”

One of the four was still attending the law enforcement academy, Wagner said, which left three corrections officers on site, and that is not enough. As a result the jail was closed and people who would be booked into the Adams County Jail are being transported to Benton and Franklin counties.

Wagner said the jail also is in need of some repairs and upgrades, and the ACSO has worked on upgrading the facility where possible. The booking counter inside the jail was replaced and the phone system was upgraded. New phones allowed inmates to communicate with family without the need for family members to come to Ritzville, which among other things cut down on staff supervision time, Wagner said. A new video arraignment system reduced staff supervision time as well, he said.

The ACSO staff painted part of the jail interior.

“(Sheriff’s office staff) came in and painted - they spent a lot of their downtime painting,” Wagner said. “And they made it look really good.”

Staff members also reorganized storage areas and ACSO has replaced some outdated kitchen and laundry equipment. Some repairs are beyond that scope, however.

“Our roof is now leaking, dripping all the down and coming in through the walls, into the basement and all the cells,” Wagner said.

The building’s heating-cooling system also is in need of repairs, he said. Adams County Commissioners have authorized repairs to the roof, and Commissioner Jay Wiese said in a Feb. 21 meeting that commissioners also have purchased parts for the heating-cooling system.

Wagner said the existing flooring is worn throughout the building, and in some areas should be replaced entirely. He cited the tile showers in some of the cells.

“Broken tiles. Potential weapons,” he said. “In my view, there shouldn’t be any tile anywhere.”

The building’s plumbing also is in need of some repairs and upgrades, he said.

Wagner said he’s looking for funding to help pay for some of the upgrades. The staffing is a separate issue and ACSO, like other law enforcement agencies statewide, is having trouble finding adequate staff. He estimated the jail needs about 18 corrections officers on staff to be most effective.

The county, however, needs a jail, he said.

“Right now, there’s not a lot of money going around for jails,” he said. “But for public safety, we need to have a functioning jail.”

Cheryl Schweizer may be reached at



Chipped paint and graffiti in a cell at the Adams County Jail. In addition to the worn appearance, there are maintenance issues that cause safety concerns for both jailers and inmates.



Adams County Sheriff’s Office staff painted some sections of the jail on their off time, said Sheriff Dale Wagner. However, the maintenance needs at the facility are more intensive than a coat of paint will fix. Other concerns include airflow, occasional water leaks and other issues which can create health concerns for staff at the jail.



The Adams County Jail shows signs of use. The facility is old and county officials acknowledge that the issue of upgrading the jail has been “kicked down the road” for years and the current administration needs to address the situation.

Recent Headlines