Fewer bookings at county jail pushes extension of jail contracts to Newcastle and other cities

July 3, 2009

By Jim Feehan

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By Jim Feehan
King County is extending its deadline for taking misdemeanor inmates from Newcastle and 35 other cities in the Seattle area beyond a previously imposed cutoff of Dec. 31, 2012.
Sentencing alternatives other than jail and a 25-percent drop in bookings by Seattle police, its biggest users of jail space at the downtown jail and its Regional Justice Center in Kent, led county officials to extend the deadline.
“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,” Interim King County Executive Kurt Triplett said in a news release. “Jails are very expensive and it is important that we make the most cost-effective decision for the region.”
Misdemeanor inmates typically serve sentences of a year or less, for such crimes as shoplifting and drunken driving. The county’s two jails will continue lodging felony inmates.
City and county officials have been in negotiations since August 2008 about a possible extension of the 2012 deadline, said Newcastle Mayor Ben Varon, a member of the Jail Oversight Assembly, made up of elected officials from each of the contract cites collaborating on jail issues.
The decision will give Newcastle and other cities more time to craft a long-term solution, he said.
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.
“There’s not a lot of inmate demand from Newcastle,” Varon said. “Of the two groups we sit right in the middle between the group looking to build a jail in the south part of the county and the other looking to build north. I’m not sure where we sit in the equation.”
King County has combined space for 3,039 inmates at its jails in downtown Seattle and in Kent.
But Kathy Van Olst, King County’s director of adult and juvenile detention, said that while the jail will have capacity in the next few years, the county should be careful not to get caught short in the future.

King County is extending its deadline for taking misdemeanor inmates from Newcastle and 35 other cities in the Seattle area beyond a previously imposed cutoff of Dec. 31, 2012.Sentencing alternatives other than jail and a 25-percent drop in bookings by Seattle police, its biggest users of jail space at the downtown jail and its Regional Justice Center in Kent, led county officials to extend the deadline.

“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,” Interim King County Executive Kurt Triplett said in a news release. “Jails are very expensive and it is important that we make the most cost-effective decision for the region.”

Misdemeanor inmates typically serve sentences of a year or less, for such crimes as shoplifting and drunken driving. The county’s two jails will continue lodging felony inmates.

City and county officials have been in negotiations since August 2008 about a possible extension of the 2012 deadline, said Newcastle Mayor Ben Varon, a member of the Jail Oversight Assembly, made up of elected officials from each of the contract cites collaborating on jail issues.

The decision will give Newcastle and other cities more time to craft a long-term solution, he said.

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.

“There’s not a lot of inmate demand from Newcastle,” Varon said. “Of the two groups we sit right in the middle between the group looking to build a jail in the south part of the county and the other looking to build north. I’m not sure where we sit in the equation.”

King County has combined space for 3,039 inmates at its jails in downtown Seattle and in Kent.

But Kathy Van Olst, King County’s director of adult and juvenile detention, said that while the jail will have capacity in the next few years, the county should be careful not to get caught short in the future.

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