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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive calls for reducing scheduled rate increases paid by cities to house their inmates in King County jails

Summary

Twenty-four local cities that house their inmates in King County jails would see a much smaller rate increase next year, under a proposed ordinance sent today to the King County Council by County Executive Dow Constantine.

Story

Twenty-four local cities that house their inmates in King County jails would see a much smaller rate increase next year, under a proposed ordinance sent today to the King County Council by County Executive Dow Constantine.

"We share a responsibility with the cities to meet the region's need for safe and secure jail space, and to do so in the most cost-effective manner,” said Executive Constantine. “By working together, we can utilize all the jail space in the region efficiently and effectively while planning together for future needs."

Under the existing Jail Services Agreement negotiated last year by the cities and the County, the daily rate for each misdemeanor inmate housed in the County’s jails would have increased by 17 percent in 2011, from $110.52 to $129.60. Other rates and surcharges would have also increased significantly.

In collaboration with the cities, the Executive has proposed a one-time fix for 2011 that moderates the increases in most rates by 40 to 60 percent. His proposal would cut the increase in the daily rate by more than half, to $119.62 per inmate per day, an 8 percent increase from the prior year. The Executive has directed his staff to work with cities to develop more affordable rates for 2012 and beyond.

“We appreciate that Executive Constantine is willing to work with us in this very difficult budget environment,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

“I appreciate the collaborative efforts made by the cities to work with the County to address long-term regional jail planning,” said King County Council Chair Bob Ferguson. “Maintaining regional cooperation on this issue is critical.”

“I’m pleased with the Executive’s leadership in making every effort to maintain a County jail system that is both regional and affordable,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson. “As elected leaders serving all the people of King County, we must work together with cities and with SCORE to best match our region’s jail resources with our communities’ public safety needs, and to do so in a manner that is fiscally responsible.”

King County also receives revenue from a separate contract with the Washington State Department of Corrections for the housing of felony inmates from King County for violating the terms of their community supervision. That contract was initiated in 2004 at a rate that strikes a balance between providing staffing and jail space to hold the State’s felons, while providing a predictable revenue stream to the County.

A steady increase in the County’s jail population was predicted in 2007 by a nationally-respected forecasting consultant assisted by local criminal justice officials. However, experts have been surprised by a steep and sudden drop in the jail population in 2008 and 2009.

King County responded by closing the equivalent of six housing units, and the County saved $1.8 million in its 2010 budget for adult secure detention by keeping 22 jobs vacant. Jail managers say they could not have responsibly reduced staffing levels any further, and risk the added costs of rehiring and training replacements, without fully knowing the causes of the steep decline in jail population and whether it was a temporary phenomenon or one that was permanent.

“At the jail we are seeing a growing population of inmates with special medical, mental health, or security needs,” said Kari Tamura, acting DAJD Director. “Growth in these special populations increases our other costs and limits our ability to close as many housing units, while maintaining a safe and secure facility, as the overall decline in jail population might otherwise suggest.”

Under the contract’s current methodology, the recent drop in the detention population combined with these cost pressures has contributed to the increase in the fees. Executive Constantine has called for all County departments to find efficiencies and reduce costs, including the jail.

“My forthcoming budget proposal for the jail will include cost reduction measures for 2011, while we partner with cities on a fair sharing of jail costs that ensures the effective use of taxpayer funds,” said Executive Constantine. “Through our collaboration with cities on jail planning, we’ve avoided near-term costs to taxpayers of siting and building another jail facility.”

The King County Strategic Plan establishes the County’s priority of operating secure and humane detention facilities that comply with legal and regulatory requirements, and keeping the streets safe by providing adequate levels of secure detention for violent and repeat offenders.

Cities in the north and east parts of the county were able to shelve plans to build a new regional municipal jail to house misdemeanor offenders after the Executive on May 13 announced a shared proposal to create a regional jail planning group and to provide cities with 150 beds in the King County Jail from 2017 through 2020.



King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

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