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Council told of first drop in County jail population in five years


Alternatives to incarceration help contain the high costs of secure detention


King County’s commitment to providing alternatives to incarceration as a way to contain criminal justice costs contributed to a 5.7 percent reduction in the number of inmates held in secure detention by King County last year – the first actual decline in average daily population since 2003.

“After only a few years, our policy direction to focus on recovery rather than incarceration is starting to pay off in a very tangible way,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who chairs the Metropolitan King County Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “Society benefits in many ways, from lower costs to lower crime rates, when alternatives to incarceration such as treatment for substance abuse and mental illness keep people from becoming involved in the criminal justice system. We are helping to break the cycle in and out of jail.”

New numbers reported by the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention were presented today to the committee. The numbers show that the average daily jail population (ADP) for the King County Jail and the Maleng Regional Justice Center, while held in check and below forecasts in recent years, actually fell from 2007 to 2008.

According to the department’s Detention and Alternatives Report:

• The average ADP for secure detention was 2,324 in 2008, down from 2,465 in 2007 for an actual decline of 5.7 percent. That number is also 10 percent below the ADP of 2,584 that had been forecast for this year.

• Total jail bookings were down by about 10 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, led by a decrease in bookings by the Seattle Police Department, and also below the annual forecast target.

• Juvenile ADP dropped from 95 to 90, below the forecast target ADP of 110.

To provide some context, the county in 1999 believed it would have over 3,600 inmates in secure detention, before the implementation of alternatives to incarceration.

King County saw an increase in the number of clients using alternatives to incarceration. Programs such as Drug and Mental Health Courts and the County’s relicensing program provide opportunities for offenders to receive assistance outside of the County Jail. The Community Center for Alternative Programs (CCAP) saw its average daily enrollment increase by 10 clients in 2008, while 23 more entered work crew programs.

CCAP is part of the Adult and Juvenile Justice Operational Master Plans (AJOMP and JJOMP), policy frameworks that call for emphasizing alternatives to incarceration, including treatment for individuals suffering from addiction or mental illness.

“These totals show that the ‘paradigm shift’ that we began at the start of this century have had a real impact on lives,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, who took the lead for the Council in the creation of the AJOMP and JJOMP. “For many, it was the first time that people were given the assistance to deal with their addiction or mental illness and to begin their journey towards recovery. These numbers show that we must continue these programs even despite our budget problems if we are to have true public safety in King County.”

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