Kent to send jail inmates to Chelan County next year, due to overcrowding at Kent City Jail

The city of Kent will start sending its overflow inmates next year to Chelan County because of overcrowding at the Kent city jail. The Kent City Council approved Nov. 16 an agreement between the city and Chelan County to house inmates from Kent at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center in Wenatchee.

The city of Kent will start sending its overflow inmates next year to Chelan County because of overcrowding at the Kent city jail.

The Kent City Council approved Nov. 16 an agreement between the city and Chelan County to house inmates from Kent at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center in Wenatchee.

The city jail along South Central Avenue has a capacity of 96 inmates. As many as 128 inmates have filled the facility on certain dates this year and the average number of inmates over the last few years has been about 107. The extra inmates sleep on the floor.

“We have too many people sleeping on the floor and that stresses our system,” said Pat Fitzpatrick, deputy city attorney who has overseen the contract with Chelan County. “Our system can’t handle a whole lot of people sleeping on the floor.”

Jail officials use electronic home detention, work release programs and work crews in the community to lower the number of inmates. The jail remains overcrowded despite those programs designed to reduce the length of sentences and open more beds.

The city jail opened in 1986 and houses misdemeanor offenders sentenced to less than one year. That includes offenses such as drunk driving, domestic violence, minor assaults and petty theft.

The city needs a larger jail, but that’s not in the immediate plans because of recent city budget shortfalls.

“We needed to look at an alternative to building more space at our facility,” Fitzpatrick said. “We can’t afford to put an addition on our jail.”

City officials also looked at King County and Yakima County to possibly house inmates, but found the best deal with Chelan County.

The city will pay Chelan County $70 per day per bed. Fitzpatrick said it’s expected as many as 10 beds per day could be needed. Chelan County also will transport inmates to and from Kent as often as twice a week as part of the $70 per bed rate.

“King County has not established a number yet but it’d be much higher than $70,” Fitzpatrick said. “It would be more than $100 plus a booking fee. There is no booking fee with Chelan County.”

The city of Federal Way recently decided to contract with Chelan County rather than Yakima County because of the lower rate in Wenatchee.

Kent has agreed to a two-year contract with Chelan County starting in January to house inmates. The cost could be an estimated $250,000 per year if Kent uses as many beds as anticipated. The city will only pay for the beds it uses.

“We hope we do not have to use all 10 beds,” Fitzpatrick said.

City officials set aside funds in the Panther Lake annexation budget to cover anticipated increased jail costs because of a city population increase of 24,000 residents in July. Fitzpatrick said it has been hard to determine so far how much the annexation has increased the jail population because so many factors play into the daily number of inmates. The jail population was high even before annexation.

City officials eventually plan to expand the jail.

“This is a stopgap measure,” Fitzpatrick said. “Hopefully, when the economy improves and we access our needs we will be able to do a construction project for corrections.”

Kent decided a couple of years ago not to join with seven other South King County cities to build a regional jail because it already had a large jail, Fitzpatrick said. Most of the other cities contract with other jails to house inmates.

The South Correctional Entity, also known as SCORE, is scheduled to open an 813-bed jail in October 2011 in Des Moines.

City jail officials have not yet determined which inmates would be sent to Chelan County.

“There has been no decision on whether we send them inmates with long sentences or short sentences,” he said. “We still need to work out those details.”

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