The Revised Code of Washington (RCW), the laws of Washington State, has a lot to say about what a sheriff can and cannot do.
In writing this it occurs to me that I may have inadvertently stumbled across why the new jail has been referred in the past as a ‘regional jail’ or “regional justice center.’ I haven’t heard the phrase recently, so perhaps someone figured out that maybe wasn’t the best marketing approach?
I found this in the City and County Jails Act of RCW 70.48:
1) Regional jails may be created and operated between two or more local governments, or one or more local governments and the state, and may be governed by representatives from multiple jurisdictions.
(2) A jurisdiction that confines persons prior to conviction in a regional jail in another county is responsible for providing private telephone, video-conferencing, or in-person contact between the defendant and his or her public defense counsel.
(3) The creation and operation of any regional jail must comply with the interlocal cooperation act described in chapter 39.34 RCW.
(4) Nothing in this section prevents counties and cities from contracting for jail services as described in RCW 70.48.090.
[2002 c 124 § 1.]”
That’s very interesting. Based on the plain reading of this section, RCW 70.48.095, it would appear to me that there must be some type of formal (written) agreement between the City of Ferndale and Whatcom County in order to move a jail from the current county seat, Bellingham, to within the city limits of Ferndale, WA, which is not the county seat.
Also, I found the RCW that mentions the sheriff’s duties to keep an office within the county seat.
The sheriff must keep an office at the county seat of the county of which he or she is sheriff.
[2009 c 105 § 3; 1963 c 4 § 36.28.160. Prior: 1891 c 45 § 2; RRS § 4158. SLC-RO-14.]”
Now, I have not found (yet) a definition of what exactly constitutes an office, so that could be as simple as a cubicle staffed by one deputy for courthouse operations and security.
If the main WCSO headquarters are located elsewhere, I can see where that could cause security concerns within the courthouse, county offices etc, unless there are additional deputies readily available in the event of an incident, multiple courtroom issues, etc.
This could have already been addressed somewhere, but if it has I haven’t come across it yet.
It just seems much simpler and easier to me, to convince the stakeholders and the taxpayers, to keep the jail within the city limits of Bellingham. For some reason though, Elfo, Louws et al, seem hell bent on getting the project out of Bellingham, even if the cost to taxpayers increases.
I’ve seen some pretty good designs, multi-level facilities that could incorporate multi-level and/or subterranean parking levels as part of a new jail and sheriff’s office. The parking lot adjacent to the courthouse has been suggested in the past by others and that would seem to me an ideal location.
A simple graphic to help illustrate:
“What would the proposed 649 bed housing unit look like if it was placed in the downtown south parking lot? This is roughly to scale (based on the DEIS information released on the proposed facility). Reduce the number of cells and you have a reasonably sized jail downtown.“
Right next to the courthouse, significantly reducing costs and ancillary expenses. The smart planner could even significantly boost parking space with a project like this. There was even talk at one time of an overhead elevated corridor between the jail and the courthouse to facilitate inmate appearances, interviews, meetings, etc.