We were first to tell you about the plans for City Council President Richard Conlin and City Councilmember Tim Burgess to send the county a letter, asking for an extension of time before the county ends the city’s contract to handle misdemeanor inmates; the looming end of that contract is why the city’s been looking to build a new jail, with a site in West Seattle (Highland Park Way SW/West Marginal Way) among those under consideration. Today, the letter’s been delivered, according to this announcement we just received from Councilmember Burgess:
The Seattle City Council delivered a letter today to King County Executive Ron Sims and King County Council Chair Dow Constantine requesting a “ten-year (or longer) extension of the current agreement” that provides jail beds for misdemeanor prisoners arrested by Seattle police officers.
The letter from the Seattle City Council is attached, along with King County Ordinance 16200 (which states that “it is the intent of the council that the county should continue to be the primary regional provider of secure detention”) and the King County Executive’s signing letter for Ordinance 16200.
Read the letter here. It’s a three-page letter, followed by the six-page ordinance.
ADDED 4:13 PM: Statement from Mayor Nickels (we have also requested one from County Council Chair Constantine and are told it’s in the works):
“I appreciate the support of the City Council in urging King County Executive Ron Sims and the King County Council to continue to provide regional detention and community corrections programs. The city of Seattle has long advocated for a long-term extension of the current agreement with King County to house our misdemeanants. However, King County has maintained that it doesn’t have long-term jail capacity and a new facility must be built. For months, we have been engaged in a process with cities in northeast King County to find another option. If King County determines that it now has the capacity for a long-term contract, we would welcome a new agreement.”
ADDED 5:09 PM: And Constantine’s statement is in:
“I appreciate this letter from the Seattle City Council. I think we all acknowledge that incarceration rates have been trending downward in King County and that the rush to build a large misdemeanant jail—or two—now seems premature. We need to explore every alternative before we spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money. The numbers indicate that a new jail may not soon be needed, particularly if we increase the capacity and use of less expensive alternative programs, drug and mental health treatment, and housing.
“In King County, our average daily jail population is far below projections in part because of our diligent work in creating and promoting alternatives to incarceration. If we are going to spend more money in this area, it should go to programs that divert people from a life of crime.
“The right thing to do now is for the county to work not just with the city of Seattle, but with all regional stakeholders to revisit our projections and develop a plan that meets our shared long-term jail needs. The important thing is to begin this dialogue immediately.”
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