By Stefanie Donahue
In an effort to reduce costs and overcrowding in Whatcom County correctional facilities, Blaine City Council agreed to move forward with an agreement to provide housing alternatives for inmates processed through Blaine Municipal Court.
The agreement, approved at a November 14 regular council meeting, will allow for the city to transport individuals facing jail time as a result of a Blaine-based traffic or criminal misdemeanor citation to correctional facilities in Yakima County. The contract lasts through 2016 and will need to be renewed for next year by the council next month.
The agreement approved by the council is a reimplementation of a contract the city had with Yakima County in the late 1990s. Back then, it was used primarily to reduce overcrowding issues, said Blaine Police chief Mike Haslip. Now, the city also considers it a prime way to save money.
In Whatcom County, it costs just over $98 to house an inmate in jail or another established corrections facility, per day. In Yakima County, it’s $54.75 and the cost includes transportation to and from Whatcom County. City staff estimate a savings of $1,297 per month, per inmate – that’s $10,000 per year.
“It all gets down to jail safety and cost,” said city manager Dave Wilbrecht. “It’s being driven by sheriffs wanting to reduce the population.”
Wilbrecht said the city was also considering a contract with SCORE (South Correctional Entity), a jail located closer to Blaine in Des Moines. However, they moved forward with the agreement in Yakima because of the cost savings, he said.
It’s hard to say how much the city will save through the agreement as the number of jailed inmates varies widely from year to year.
Blaine Municipal Court administrator Raylene King said in 2016 an average of 35 days passed between an initial charge and a final sentence – and not all of those cases required jail time. In Lynden, she said, an estimated 65 days pass between a charge and sentencing.
“We try to get stuff resolved as quickly as possible,” she said.
The average jail time for individuals processed through Blaine Municipal Court varies widely. Serious offenses, such as a DUI, require jail time in Washington state.
But ultimately, she said, when time in custody exceeds several days, Yakima County is an extremely cost effective option