Why NEC Needs a Municipal Jail Facilities

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On May 13, 2010, King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed providing cities with 150 beds in the King County Jail until 2020. This move, coupled with current and potential contracts that north/east King County cities have with other jurisdictions for jail beds, enabled Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to recommend ending the process of siting a new regional municipal jail to house misdemeanor offenders. For more information, please visit the King County Web site: www.kingcounty.gov

Why the NEC Needs Municipal Jail Facilities

  • Cities are responsible for jailing people convicted of misdemeanor offenses.     
    • People are most often booked in municipal jails on misdemeanor charges related to property (e.g., theft), driving under the influence (DUI), traffic related charges, misdemeanor assault, and misdemeanor domestic violence.
  • Continuing to contract for jail beds is not a long-term solution.
    • Police officers need a local place to book people into jail so officers can get back on the streets quickly.
    • Driving five hours (round-trip to Yakima) every time an officer needs to book someone in jail or transport someone to court is inefficient and takes officers off the streets for too long.
    • Although there are municipal jails in Kirkland and Issaquah, they have a combined capacity of only 76 beds – which is not enough to meet the North/East cities’ projected need of 640 beds.
  • Many cities located in King County have a contract with King County that allows 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.
  • Because of space constraints in existing County facilities in downtown Seattle and Kent, King County will no longer have room to house city misdemeanor inmates when the current contract ends.
    • A King County jail population study found that by 2015, King County won’t have enough jail beds to house its own felony jail population. 
    • Cities are considering building a municipal jail because they will lose all of their misdemeanor jail beds when their contract with King County ends in roughly four years.
    • This means that the NEC group has roughly four years to site and build a new municipal jail.  They must begin this process now, as siting and building a jail normally takes at least six years. They realize this is a challenging schedule, which is why they must identify a site in 2010.
    • To ease the schedule pressure a bit, cities are working with King County to see if they can negotiate a one-year extension to the current contract.
    • Regardless of whether an extension is granted, the County has made one thing clear: it cannot continue to house city misdemeanants at its existing facilities and cities should be planning a replacement facility.
  • Although no one wants to build a jail, one thing is certain; a jail must be built somewhere.