Sheriffs in each of the 39 counties in the state of Washington are elected to four year terms, with no limit to the number of terms allowed. Duties include making arrests, serving warrants, executing orders of the courts, supervising deputies and other staff, operating the jail(s) (in the 28 counties which have such facilities), and maintaining security of the local courts. The sheriff is specifically given permission to employ able-bodied prisoners in county work details. Although the sheriff has jurisdiction over the entire county, most sheriff’s departments tend to operate largely in the rural areas of a county, leaving law enforcement within city limits in the hands of the local police. The staff size and budget vary widely between counties. Differences are influenced by population, taxes, area, and the presence of other law enforcement agencies, such as municipal police departments.
Each of the sheriff’s departments has a website. You may find a specific department through the appropriate page on this website, or you may use the county links on the Washington State Sheriffs’ Association site. The amount of information available varies from county to county. Most websites include information about the sheriff and some of the staff, contact and location details, a most wanted list, a lookup tool for registered sex offenders, and jail information.
Jails under the direction of a county sheriff in Washington usually house prisoners who are awaiting trial, sentencing, or transport to a different facility or who have been sentenced to less than 365 days of incarceration. Those sentenced to more than a year are moved to state prison facilities. For counties operating a jail, you can normally find a list of current inmates, along with photos, date of offense and arrest, court information, and bail amount. For larger jail facilities, you can find the inmate’s housing assignment.