Federal Way has reentered a contract with the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) regional jail to secure an additional three beds for inmates.
Federal Way City Council unanimously approved the contract agreement at the Dec. 1 meeting. Located in Des Moines, the jail opened in 2011 and holds about 800 inmates. To accommodate health and safety guidelines for COVID-19, the jail’s population has been cut to about half capacity.
Federal Way’s 2018 decision to leave SCORE jail, publicly owned by multiple South King County cities, was prompted by the rising jail costs — an increase of about $4 million between 2012 to 2018, the Mirror previously reported. Federal Way officially departed from SCORE jail in January 2020 and has since recognized approximately $2.1 million in annual savings.
The 2021 total annual jail budget for the City of Federal Way is $4,330,300.
The new jail service agreement, approved Dec. 1, allows Federal Way to operate as a partner city — not an owner city as once before. Inmates will be booked for about $128 per day, compared to daily fees of $360 to book at King County Jail or $185 to book at Kent City Jail (including booking fees for both).
The annual $175,000 contract is a reallocation of funds already in the city’s jail budget and adds another location to the city’s current roster of five jails including King County, Kent, Puyallup, Issaquah and Yakima jails.
With the current contract jails, Federal Way has 13 beds guaranteed for inmates. In approving the agreement with SCORE, three more beds have been added for a total of 16.
Guaranteed beds are generally lower cost than non-guaranteed, said Police Chief Andy Hwang at the Dec. 1 meeting. In re-joining SCORE, the Federal Way Police Department has a more stable ability to house inmates, and reduces the amount of time officers are outside of city limits due to SCORE’s proximity. A round trip excursion to King County Jail could take an officer 2 to 2.5 hours, whereas a roundtrip to SCORE is about 30-40 minutes, Hwang said.
This reduces officers’ emergency response times for local Federal Way residents in need, he said.
Hesitations over the agreement when first introduced at the Nov. 17 council meeting noted concerns about alleged inmate complaints, community feedback, the city’s decision to leave so recently and about lawsuits against SCORE for previous inmate deaths. Since opening, the jail has had six inmate deaths and investigations have revealed SCORE has not been at fault for any of the incidents, said SCORE Executive Director Devon Schrum.
SCORE offers 24/7 registered-nurse level medical care, along with having a doctor and dentist on-site five days a week and a mental health professional available seven days a week, Schrum said. SCORE also offers free vaccinations for inmates and provides a comprehensive medication-assisted treatment program to help opioid-addicted inmates.
A motion to approve the contract was made by Councilmember Linda Kochmar and seconded by Councilmember Martin Moore, who had previously attempted to kill the jail service contract entirely at an earlier council meeting.
“If I were ever going to go to jail … I’d rather be at SCORE than at King County Jail, I can tell you that,” Kochmar said.