King County won’t cut felony jail bookings at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent after all.
The County Council on Monday unanimously approved the 2017-2018 county budget of $11.4 billion, including jail bookings in Kent.
King County Executive Dow Constantine had proposed eliminating the bookings in 2018 to save about $932,000, according to county staff. Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas and Mayor Suzette Cooke each testified last month against the cuts at a county budget hearing in Kent.
“As budget chair, public safety and restoring the cuts to the Maleng Regional Justice Center were among my top priorities,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, whose district includes Kent, in an email. “It’s critical that we have a fully operational facility in South King County so that officers can focus on addressing crime instead of spending time in traffic on their way to Seattle.”
Individuals arrested in South King County for felony crimes can be processed and housed at the RJC, a practice that will continue under the adopted budget. A previous budget proposal eliminated bookings in Kent beginning in 2018 as one cost-saving measure to address the budget shortfall. Under this earlier proposal, officers would have had to transport inmates to the county jail in Seattle after arrest.
“I offer my thanks to Councilmember Upthegrove and the rest of the King County Council for their decision to keep booking open at the Maleng Regional Justice Center,” said Thomas. “This will be extremely helpful in keeping our communities safe and also will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement in South King County.”
Cooke said the county jail bookings were part of the deal to the community when the county proposed construction of the RJC in Kent.
“I appreciate the county’s reconsideration to allow the continued booking of felony crimes at the RJC by our police officers,” Cooke said. “This practice was a commitment made by the county to our community when construction of the RJC was originally proposed. By booking felonies in Kent, and by not spending time on our freeways transporting felons to Seattle, our officers are better able to serve residents here at home.”
The funds to restore the jail bookings came from two main places – a $2.7 million increase in the tax revenue forecast and a new proposal to charge rent for the use of county right-of-way to utilities that will generate about $5 million by the end of 2018, according to county staff.
The city of Kent operates its own jail for those arrested for misdemeanor crimes, such as drunk driving, domestic violence, minor assaults and petty theft.