The Yakima County Department of Corrections has notified the city of Blaine that it is terminating an inmate housing agreement at the end of the current calendar year.
Like other cities, Blaine is technically responsible for housing inmates who are convicted of misdemeanors and gross demeanors in its municipal court. These crimes include drunk driving, domestic violence, assault and violations of protection orders. The county, on the other hand, is responsible for housing all inmates convicted of felonies.
To meet its obligations, Blaine has historically contracted with Whatcom County for its inmate housing needs. Due to space constraints and other issues at Whatcom County Jail, Blaine has also contracted with Yakima County since about 2017.
It is unclear why Yakima County has decided to cancel the inmate housing agreement; a call to Yakima County Department of Corrections director Ed Campbell was not returned by press time. However, it is understood that Yakima County is open to the possibility of renegotiating the contract, perhaps for a higher rate. Currently, Yakima County charges the city of Blaine $63.65 per inmate per day, though additional fees apply when medical costs are incurred.
Other cities in Whatcom County have also contracted with Yakima County, and have recently received similar termination letters.
Whatcom County is currently struggling to house its inmates. According to sheriff Bill Elfo, the Whatcom County Jail in downtown Bellingham was designed for 147 inmates but currently houses about 212 inmates. The building is having some major structural issues, and “millions of dollars of projects are on the horizon to keep the building functioning,” he said.