West Seattle jail-site fight: County to offer “multi-year extension”

June 11, 2009 at 3:47 pm | In Crime, West Seattle jail sites, West Seattle news | Comments Off

We reported in April that the Seattle City Council had sent the county a letter asking for an extension of at least 10 years in the contract for the county to handle misdemeanor inmates – the same inmates the county had said it couldn’t handle after 2012, touching off a push to build new municipal jails (with a West Seattle site under consideration by the “north/east cities”). Now comes word the county will offer a “multi-year” extension – read on to see the official news release just received from the county, followed by a response on behalf of Seattle and the other “north/east cities” (indicating the jail-planning process will NOT be halted):

King County is preparing to offer a multi-year extension of contracts
with the 36 cities it provides jail services to after a new analysis
shows a decline in jail use. The new analysis of jail bed use seems to
indicate a trend where construction of new jail space can be slowed,
allowing the cities and county more time to explore how best to meet
future needs.

The county has seen a dramatic drop in felony bookings since late 2007.
If the trend continues, the county’s two jails will reach capacity later
than the original projection of 2012. In 2001, the county notified its
contract cities that they would have to find other jail space after
2012. The cities are currently planning construction of new jails.

“This drop in jail use gives us an opportunity to take a more
collaborative and regional approach in examining options for future jail
space needs,” said King County Executive Kurt Triplett. “Jails are very
expensive and it is important that we make the most cost-effective
decision for the region.”

The cities and county have been in negotiations since August of 2008
about a possible extension of the 2012 deadline.

King County has combined space for 3,039 inmates at its jails in
downtown Seattle and in Kent. It is believed that programs such as
alternatives to detention and a prosecutorial change in which crimes are
filed as misdemeanors or felonies have helped contributed to the
decrease in daily jail populations. Additionally, the jail has seen a
25% drop in bookings by Seattle police, its biggest user of jail space.

“If the trend holds we will have capacity to continue our city contracts
beyond 2012, but we have to be very careful so that we are not caught
short of space in the future” said King County’s Director of Adult and
Juvenile Detention Kathy Van Olst. “Our proposed contract extension will
provide more certainty for the cities that depend on us. It will also
give law enforcement, corrections, courts and jail officials time to
dive a little deeper into the calculations, assumptions and booking
policies and craft a long term solution that will work most efficiently
and cost-effectively for the whole region.”

Jail managers have met with Seattle’s police chief and they agree that
the drop in bookings from Seattle police will eventually reverse.

All cities in the county, with the exception of Enumclaw, Kent, and
Milton contract with King County for jail space. The contract cities
have formed two groups, one looking to construct a jail in the south
part of the county and the other looking at a Seattle or north county
location for a jail. Each facility would need approximately 640 inmate
beds.

Right after we published that, this came in on behalf of the north/east cities:

The North/East Cities planning group appreciates King County’s
responsiveness to our request for an extension of our jail contracts. An
extension would give the cities some breathing room and time to do
additional work around our jail needs and siting process. We look
forward to seeing the county’s specific proposal regarding the extension
as we understand the county will be offering 300 beds through 2015.
While this will give us a more realistic development schedule, it does
not address the issue of long-term jail capacity. The cities will
continue discussions with the county on solving our long-term jail
capacity needs.”

The NEC is in the midst of its environmental impact statement (EIS)
process and will issue its draft EIS in December. Public meetings
regarding the Draft EIS will be held in January 2010. The final EIS will
be issued in the second quarter of 2010. For more information on the
project, log onto http://www.necmunicipaljail.org/

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