Blindspots:  REport on Whatcom County Jail Trauma Study

This podcast is the 1st in a series about what really happens to people who get arrested. I did the research as President of the Restorative Community Coalition.  I had been striving to figure out why the top three law enforcement officials in our County kept pushing the taxpayers to pass a massive tax to build an even more massive jail when crime rates had been dropping dramatically.  It made no logical sense.  More on this in another post.  

Regarding the ethnographic research study: I decided to interview people (53) who who had been arrested and went through the Whatcom County Jail and Justice System from beginning to end. Some were still dealing with it. These were people I had helped through court navigation, or had worked with in our educational sessions, or had coached about their situation.  I wanted to know in deeper depth what really happened to them from the beginning to the end – so that we could learn what was the matter with the system from the bottoms up. 

Everybody else was seeing “system reform” from the top down – and it wasn’t working.  How does it look from the bottom of the barrel? 

So this podcast talks about the people I interviewed and how I did the study.  These first interviews gave me pause, and caused me to interview another 26 who were friends, family, employers, criminal defense attorneys. There were employees of the system – police, defenders, prosecutors, clerks and other staff, jailers, emergency responders, hospital and mental health providers, and investigative writers. There were people of diverse demographics, education and financial class.

Of the 79 people, all were deeply concerned about the system. Nobody really wanted to go into the emotional heavy lifting – but each was willing to do it for the purpose of hoping they could help fix it. These were not easy conversations – for the subject is emotionally traumatizing to talk about for all of us.

  • I found out that it is deeply disturbing to the soul. So nice people want to avoid the conversation.  
  • It is distasteful.  It is cruel and ugly.  It is unspeakable in many ways.
  • It boggles the mind that we are doing this in the 21st century when we have other options.
  • I found out that people who get arrested go through dramatic arrest shock and jail trauma that causes deep mental, physical and emotional distress – people cannot comprehend what just happened to them. 
  • And it happens before they ever even get to 1st Appearance. Before they meet any Public Defender, before bail. There is no safety zone at all.

    But I get ahead of myself…this 1st podcast is simply to introduce why I did the work. Below is the chart that emerged afterwards.  

    In future podcasts, I will explain more… 


Whatcom County Jail Trauma Chart

You can download the PDF’s of the posters that go with this podcast here:







Blindspots 1.1:  Report on the Whatcom County Jail Trauma Study

This podcast is an introduction to the ethnographic research study that Joy Gilfilen did where she interviewed 79 people who were dealing with the Whatcom County Jail and Justice system.  

Author Details
Joy Gilfilen is a Quantum Leadership Expert who\\\'s spent 40 years in free-enterprise and business development. Her expertise include systems that help communities transform complex problems into simple and effective solutions.