Jail-sites fight: City says county extension only partly helps

July 7, 2008 at 3:07 pm | In West Seattle jail sites, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 2 Comments

Latest in the process of deciding where the city might build a new jail for misdemeanor offenders – with “final four” potential sites including two in southeastern West Seattle: City Councilmember Sally Clark made this point while speaking to the Delridge District Council last month (WSB coverage here) – the city contends that even if the county extends its jail-space agreement with Seattle and other cities – as the County Council wants to do — that doesn’t stop the city’s jail-planning process. Here’s the news release just issued by the city, in which officials explain why: (ADDED 5:02 PM – following the city news release, we’ve added the one the county just sent, which notes toward the end that the county is currently below once-projected jail population)

Possible extension of county jail services contract welcomed;move doesn’t eliminate need for
additional jail capacity

SEATTLE – Seattle officials today welcomed the King County Council’s
request that the county executive extend jail services contracts with
local cities in the short and long term, pursue expansion of the
Regional Justice Center (RJC) in Kent, and collaborate on planning for
additional jail beds.

“While Seattle agrees King County should be the regional provider of
jail services and appreciates the County Council’s actions today, the
legislation does not guarantee any jail beds for cities,” said Catherine
Cornwall, senior policy analyst for the city of Seattle. “Until we have
that guarantee, the cities need to move ahead with their plans.”

The County Council’s legislation requests that the county
executive:begin negotiations with cities for a two-year contract
extension (and increase the adult daily population limits to the extent
possible); submit to the Council by Oct. 1, 2008, a proposal – which includes
capital and operating cost estimates – to expand the RJC;
negotiate with the state and the cities to seek their participation on
capital planning for additional jail capacity; and
negotiate a new long-term agreement with the cities upon completion of
the contract extension.

Cities are responsible for jailing people convicted of misdemeanor
offenses. Like many cities located in King County, Seattle has a
contract with King County that allows it to house its misdemeanants in
the county’s jail. The county is responsible for housing felons and
those arrested for misdemeanors in unincorporated areas. Due to space
constraints in existing county facilities, King County has required that
Seattle and other cities end their use of the county jail for city
misdemeanants by December 31, 2012.

All cities in King County except Kent and Enumclaw, which have their
own municipal jails and do not contract with King County for jail
services, formed the Jail Administrative Group (JAG) to address issues
related to the cities’ contracts for jail services with King County and
Yakima County. The JAG is also working together to address the lack of
jail capacity for their misdemeanor offenders. Last week JAG
representatives presented information to the County Council regarding
cities’ needs.

The cities specifically requested the county take the actions the
County Council included in the legislation passed today. “The County
Council clearly listened to our concerns and we hope the King County
Executive will implement the Council’s requests,” Cornwall said.
“Extending the jail services contract to 2014 allows a more realistic
timeframe for additional jail facilities to be sited and built. However,
simply extending the contract for two years does not allow cities to
stop planning for a new jail to house cities’ misdemeanants. Cities
still face a capacity issue that needs to be addressed by building a new
facility or facilities.”

On June 30, during a Committee of the Whole meeting regarding jail
services, King County Councilmember Julia Patterson noted cities
embarked on the effort to build new jail beds because the county had
asked them to leave its corrections system. She called the cities’
efforts to replace jail beds responsible and encouraged them to continue
their jail planning efforts as it might not be possible for the county
and cities to find a joint solution.

King County projects it will need 3,575 jail beds by 2026 and cities in
the county project they will need 1,450 beds. Expanding the Regional
Justice Center in Kent will provide 460 additional jail beds – enough to
meet King County’s projected jail bed needs but not those of the cities.

“If this effort is going to work, the county needs to join the jail
planning efforts of the cities that are already under way,” Cornwall
said. “The only certainty cities have right now is their jail services
contracts currently expire in 2012.”

Typically, it takes at least six years to site and build a jail. Unless
these issues with the county are resolved by early September, the cities
will have to continue on with their current plans in order to be able to
replace by January 1, 2013, the beds they are losing at King County jail
facilities.

Next step in the jail-site search is the next city-organized forum, 9 am Saturday at North Seattle Community College (this one is supposed to focus on the Aurora site but the city has said all are welcome at all four scheduled forums, which are all listed here; WSB coverage of the forum in South Park, which focused on the West Seattle sites, is here).

ADDED 5:02 PM – Just in, the county’s own news release:

Council calls for extension of regional jail contract
and joint strategy with cities on future jail needs

Negotiations reopened for contract extension to 2014 in short term

and regional integration of criminal justice services in the long term

Local cities will have two more years to house their misdemeanor offenders in King County jails under the extension of a regional jail services contract unanimously authorized today by the Metropolitan King County Council, which also called for negotiations with the cities on a long-term contract that would continue the County’s role as the primary provider of jail and community corrections programs.

“Extending the contract an additional two years will give us more time to work with the cities to develop a real solution—a long-term strategy for a regional jail that is efficient and cost-effective for the public,” said Council Chair Julia Patterson. “This is just the first step.”

“Our recent investments in alternative corrections programs such as Drug Court and Mental Health Court are paying off by delaying the need to build expensive new corrections facilities,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Council’s Law, Justice and Human Services Committee. “For many non-violent offenders with drug and alcohol addictions, treatment instead of punishment is less expensive and also more effective and compassionate. Working with our city and state partners, we can expand community corrections options and integrate our criminal justice systems to keep costs and crime rates down.”

The ordinance approved today calls for:

· Immediate reopening of negotiations with the cities in King County to extend the current jail services contract by at least two years, to December 31, 2014.

· Expansion of bed space at the Maleng Regional Justice Center, with a proposal delivered by the County Executive to the Council by October 1, 2008, in time for consideration in the 2009 budget process.

· Negotiation with both the state and the cities on a capital construction plan for expansion of both jails and community corrections programs.

· Negotiation of a new long-term contract with the cities for regional integration of criminal justice services and a strong and fair partnership for capital funding for new jail capacity, allocation of operating costs, and the use of criminal justice efficiencies and best practices to benefit the system.

“It is very important that we strengthen our regional partnerships in order to have a comprehensive, first-class criminal justice system,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “This means working with the cities within the County to ensure public safety, provide alternatives to incarceration for those who need treatment to stay out of the system, and operate a uniform, humane, equitable and fiscally responsible criminal justice system.”

“Working together on one coordinated regional jail expansion plan has the potential to save money and reduce community impacts,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “It’s time for cities and the County to come together on this and look for what the best solution will be for taxpayers and the administration of justice.”

“King County and its cities need to work together on a comprehensive, countywide corrections plan to expand our jail capacity wisely and identify efficiencies,” said Councilmember Dow Constantine. “The planning process will benefit from King County’s pioneering work in using alternatives to incarceration to limit jail population.”

“Critical issues to our community like those we face with criminal justice cannot be solved without a partnership between regional leaders,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “Today’s action by the Council highlights the importance of engaging in a continued partnership between the County and its suburban cities to solve our region’s biggest challenges.”

“We must keep the option alive to tackle our criminal justice issues as a region,” said Councilmember Jane Hague. “A piecemeal system will only cause confusion, costs and unequal justice for our citizens.”

“Working together as a region to solve our public safety challenges makes sense,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson. “We face tough questions on how to best serve the region’s criminal justice needs, and it will take a collaborative effort to answer them. This legislation will help to ensure that the necessary regional cooperation continues.”

A majority of cities in King County currently contract with King County for jail beds for their city misdemeanants. The current expiration of that contract of 2012 was negotiated six years ago at a time when jail population projections led the County to believe it would no longer have room to house city inmates. However, significant efficiencies in court, prosecutor and public defense procedures and increased use of alternatives to incarceration have produced lower inmate projections and available bed space.

To meet the anticipated 2012 deadline several cities have already begun planning for siting of local jails, but at the Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on June 30 a panel of elected officials and staff from local cities supported the re-opening of negotiations to extend the current jail contract.

Reductions in jail populations over the past several years have been realized through the Council’s adoption of such alternatives to incarceration as the Adult Justice Operational Master Plan (AJOMP), the Juvenile Justice Operational Master Plan (JJOMP), the County’s Community Corrections Division, and the Criminal Justice Initiative which provides for treatment of individuals with mental illness or drug dependency along with housing for the homeless. While a projection made in 1999 anticipated an adult 2008 jail population of over 3,800, the average daily population (ADP) in King County’s jails in April was 2,380.

Read more about this legislation on the King County Council’s LEGISEARCH system at
http://mkcclegisearch.metrokc.gov/legistarweb and type in “2008-0322”

2 Comments

  1. It amazes me that the city seems to be less transparent in their reasoning and politicking(sp?). Perhaps there is some “LOGIC” behind the city’s thinking:
    Locate a public jail facility with its requisite ancillary services as far as possible from major lines of transportation. And further, extension of existing and preplanning of new mass transportation options (ie, streetcar, monorail or light rail) do not include any service to West Seattle proper or this ‘appropriate’ facility site.
    UGGGHHH!!! How soon can we recall the current city council and vote in officials with some intelligence?

    Comment by Roger — 8:01 pm July 7, 2008 #

  2. Why was a 7 acre site a distance away from the court house determined to be more economical (over time – costs of operation), than a one-city-block jail located next to the downtown courthouse?

    A 7 acre site would seem to require more operating costs to the city (and it’s taxpayer base) over time in the following ways:

    1. More guards and jail employees to secure a “7 acre site” located very close to senior housing, schools, and family neighborhoods.

    A one block building would have less perimeter to secure, and be more easily secured with fewer employees.

    2. Gasoline and overall transportation costs. Transporting prisoners is a requirement of locating the prison away from the courthouse. This cost will only be increasingly prohibitive over time.

    It seems the city of Seattle is being very short sighted in it’s decision to locate the jail in neighborhoods away from the downtown courthouse.

    Comment by Racheal — 11:13 pm July 8, 2008 #

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