On the eve of Dow Constantine‘s swearing-in as King County Executive, we are reminded that he declared five months ago there’d be no new jail for municipal misdemeanor offenders if he got the job. As you may recall, Seattle originally was looking at two West Seattle sites for a possible jail to house misdemeanor offenders the county was at the time saying it wouldn’t be able to handle after 2012; then Seattle partnered with a few other regional cities to continue pursuing the project, and kept one West Seattle site (West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way SW) under consideration. Now, county councilmembers have approved a three-year extension for providing jail services – which buys time, though the jail-planning process continues in parallel. Read on for the county’s official announcement:
The Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously approved a three-year extension to continue housing city jail inmates in County facilities. The agreement caps two years of negotiations on the contracts with cities, which were set to expire in 2012.
“We appreciate the work of our cities in partnering with us on how best to provide for the public safety needs of our community in the most cost-effective manner,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Council’s Law and Justice Committee. “This agreement formalizes the cooperative relationship we wish to continue among the county and cities. It also acknowledges that we all will continue our efforts to plan for additional jail capacity and will utilize alternatives to detention in order to prioritize existing capacity for those who truly need to be detained.”
Lambert said the success of the Adult Justice Operation Master Plan in reducing jail populations through the use of alternatives to incarceration has extended the time that King County will have capacity in its detention facilities and allows extension of the contracts with cities.
“The fact that we have space within our facilities is proof that the ‘paradigm shift’ the County started a decade ago is working,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “Alternatives to incarceration are giving people who need treatment more than a jail cell the help they need. This contract will allow the cities and the County to ensure that there are cells available for those inmates who must be in a secured facility.”
Upon receiving promising jail capacity reports two years ago, the council asked the executive to negotiate a three-year extension to the current contract to allow time for planning with the cities about how to house their misdemeanants in the future.
The new contract must be approved by participating cities that intend to continue housing inmates in county detention facilities until Dec. 31, 2015. The agreement includes a new rate model that requires full-cost recovery, including:
· A new, lower, daily rate
· A new lower rate for inmates in work education and release
· A revision to booking fees, and
· New charges associated with inmate medical and mental health services and one-on-one guarding of inmates who need to be at Harborview or other medical facilities.
Lambert also has requested the new County Executive to review capacity projections and propose an amendment to the agreement as soon as possible to extend contracts to 2016, which is the earliest date that new jail capacity could become available.