Inmates in the work release program at the Snohomish County Jail say they've been exposed to bed bugs, and one man says it got so bad, he had more than 100 welts on his body before officials finally agreed to do something about it.
"There's the expected contribution from us to pay back society for what we've done, but I wasn't expecting to have to be eaten alive by parasites," said Peter Blyzka, who spent several months in the program this summer. "It really is a helpless feeling because you really have no choice but to be there."
Blyzka entered the work release program in mid-July. He spent his days studying business at the University of Washington Bothell and would return to a dorm-like facility on the Snohomish County corrections campus at night.
He first noticed something wrong after a fellow inmate was scratching at bug bites, he said.
"A few nights later, I was sleeping in a bunk next to him and started getting bites. They were small little bites that over time turned into larger welts," Blyzka recalled. "It was something I didn't need to go through. I was already going through a lot, and to have that stacked on top of it was an embarrassment."
Blyzka said he complained to corrections officers but got nowhere, so he eventually captured a small bug and began tracking things in a journal while also taking photos of the bites. Some show clusters of smaller dots on his shoulder or hand; others show large welts on his head, neck, and arms.
He eventually filed two grievances before he finished the program.
"(We've) been working hard to tackle the problem because we certainly don't want it to spread and we definitely want to get it contained right away," said Shari Ireton, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. "As far as we know, we haven't had an issue with bed bugs before in our facility going back many years."
Ireton said a pest-control company was paying its third visit to the facility this week to power wash the area and spray chemicals.
Blyzka - who spent time in the facility for a drunk driving-related case - is scheduled to return soon for a second stint on a related charge. He hopes this time around he'll be sleeping alone.
"I just wanted to be treated. I just wanted to be treated like a normal human being who was going through some hard times and needed some correction," he said. "There was no reason to have to put up with the conditions that I had to put up with. It was not fair."