Jail-sites fight: Seattle and other cities may join forces

July 9, 2008 9:57 am
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 |   Highland Park | West Seattle jail sites | West Seattle news

Just in from the city – Seattle and “other north and east King County cities” are now looking at building one jail for the misdemeanor offenders the county says it eventually won’t be able to handle, instead of each city (or smaller combinations thereof) building its own – based on the results of a new “feasibility study.” The question would remain, where would a semi-regional jail be built; at last month’s Delridge District Council meeting (WSB coverage here), City Councilmember Sally Clark said, “Other cities think a regional solution is great … as long as it (the jail) is in Seattle. Meantime, we’ll be pursuing reaction on this morning’s announcement; for starters, read on for the news release just sent by the city:

North and east King County cities, including
Seattle, may collaborate on building additional misdemeanant jail

Officials from cities in north and east King County,
including Seattle, are recommending to their councils building a single
640 bed municipal jail facility to serve their collective needs.
Preliminary results of a feasibility study show the cities north and
east of Seattle would cut their per-inmate costs by half, and Seattle’s
costs are also reduced, if these cities jointly build a misdemeanant
jail. The study is expected to be released by the end of the month.

The cities expected there would be some economies of scale for a single
facility but the draft feasibility study shows significant savings,
primarily from operational costs. For example, one jail, one jail
director; two jails, two jail directors; one jail, one booking center;
two jails, two booking centers.

The north and east cities of King County have been working together to
address the shortage of misdemeanant jail beds and will now begin the
process of identifying potential sites within their jurisdictions for a
municipal jail. These will be considered as possible sites for the joint
facility in addition to those already identified in Seattle.

Together, the cities need approximately 640 jail beds. Seattle
estimates it will need 445 jail beds for misdemeanant offenders over the
next 20 years, while the north and east cities in the county estimate
they will need almost 200 beds.

Cities are responsible for jailing people convicted of misdemeanor
offenses. Most cities located in King County have contracts with the
county that allow them to house their 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, however, King County is requiring that
Seattle and other cities end their use of the county jail for city
misdemeanants by December 31, 2012.

On Monday, the King County Council requested 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 the cities
welcomed the County Council’s action, it does not formally guarantee any jail beds
for cities. Extending the jail services contract to 2014 allows a more
realistic timeframe for additional jail facilities to be sited and built
but 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.

Due to geographic considerations, two groups have formed to address the
shortage of misdemeanant jail space. These two planning efforts are
coordinated and all the cities are working closely together to meet
their collective needs. The North/East Cities Committee (NECC) is
composed of 23 cities, including Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond,
Seattle and Shoreline. Among them, the 23 cities estimate they will need
640 beds for misdemeanant offenders over the next 20 years. In addition,
five South King County cities – Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Tukwila
and Renton – have formed the South Corrections Entity (SCORE) and are
pursuing the construction of a 680-bed jail facility to meet their needs
over the next 20 years.

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