Final Council action-no new jail in Interbay!

By King County Councilmember Larry Phillips

Dear Ms. Rook,

Earlier this year I wrote to let you know that King County and the City of Seattle had announced their intention to make a long-term agreement for use of the King County Jail as the primary provider of bed space for the City's misdemeanor inmates over the next two decades. Today, the Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved the agreement, making it final. This agreement ends—with certainty—proposals to build a new jail in Interbay.

I have been pleased to partner with many community organizations in Interbay, Magnolia, Queen Anne, and Ballard since 2008 in opposing any new jail in Interbay. Because some time has passed, I wish to provide some background on this issue.

As you may know, most cities in King County, including Seattle, contract with King County for jail beds to house misdemeanant offenders. A few years ago, due to projected growth in the number of felon inmates, then-King County Executive Ron Sims stated that cities would not be able to contract with the county past 2012 and should begin planning to house misdemeanants themselves. In response, north and east cities, including Seattle and Shoreline, formed the North/East Cities Municipal Jail Planning Project, which identified six sites for a full evaluation—one of those sites was 1600 West Armory Way in Interbay.

In June 2008, I wrote to then-Mayor Greg Nickels urging him to reconsider siting any jail facility in Interbay. Among other concerns, I cited Interbay's location between two established family neighborhoods, its strategic location for further urban growth, and noted that a jail would further diminish the small amount of existing industrial-zoned land within our City limits.

At the same time, I had concerns about the Executive's decision to end contracts with cities in 2012, and hoped there would be a way for King County to continue to provide regional jail services for cities. In July 2008, my King County colleagues and I directed the Executive to reopen discussion between King County and cities about our current contracts for jail services, and to engage in a wider discussion about the possibility of King County continuing to provide regional jail services, alleviating the need for Seattle, Shoreline and other local cities to build new jails. In the summer of 2009, then-Executive Kurt Triplett released the great news that a tentative agreement had been reached between the county and cities on extending the current contracts through 2015, providing at least three more years to assess and evaluate the need for a new jail.

Today's Council approval of an agreement between King County and the City of Seattle includes a commitment by King County to provide jail space for Seattle inmates through 2030, reasonable and predictable fees for services that financially benefit both the City and County, and a commitment to work together on jail diversion programs, alternatives to incarceration such as home-detention and treatment programs, and jail population forecasting. This agreement ends the need for Seattle and other cities to build a new jail.

Please join me in celebrating this victory. This agreement provides for cost savings for taxpayers, operational efficiencies, inter-governmental partnership, and importantly, closes the book on the proposal to build a jail in Interbay.

Congratulations and thanks for your interest and advocacy! I appreciate the opportunity to share this good news with you.

Sincerely,

Larry Phillips, Councilmember
Metropolitan King County Council, District Four

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