The 2011 Dr. Farbstein Report

The Jay Farbstein Jail Report of October, 2011

The county paid, I have to presume this because I haven’t found a bill or payment for this yet, Dr. Farbstein a substantial amount of county taxpayer dollars to analyze the current jail situation in late 2011.

Dr. Farbstein is a well educated and highly credentialed architecture and design consultant with numerous achievements to his credit. Dr. Farbstein is the principle and mentor of Jay Farbstein and Associates, Inc of Los Angeles, CA.

Dr. Farbstein is a board member of the EDRA, Environmental Design Research Association.

Dr. Farbstein holds a PhD from the University of London, a Masters degree in Architecture from Harvard University and a Bachelors degree from the University of California, LA. You can read more about Dr. Farbstein here and here if you like.

Can we just suffice it to say that Dr. Farbstein isn’t a newbie to architecture, design, or planning and that he knows what he’s talking about?

The following observations and recommendations are excerpted from Dr. Farbstein’s report, which can be read in it’s entirety here: Jay Farbstein Jail Report 10 12 11

I hope every citizen of Whatcom County will read his observations and recommendations as not only a very astute and well informed unbiased third party, but as a highly educated, very experienced and credentialed expert in his field.

When you’ve digested what you’ve read here, please compare that to what two biased elected officials in particular have been telling you. One in particular, is how we got from 13 potential site options,……….to one,……with no dialogue, debate, public input, transparency, or explanation whatsoever from any county official.

To the primary observations and recommendations of the report (Bold emphasis as indicated in Dr. Farbstein’s original report). Again, the original report can be read here Jay Farbstein Jail Report 10 12 11:

Observation 1: While the JPTF (Jail Planning Task Force) is clearly a very dedicated, hard-working and intelligent group, it has been charged with responsibilities well beyond the capabilities of citizens and corrections professionals.

Recommendation 1: In order to be in a position to make recommendations on many of the requested topics, the JPTF (and the County) need substantial input and analysis that can only be provided by a qualified and experienced corrections planner. The County should take immediate steps toward obtaining the services of a corrections planner. This will likely entail several steps before such services can begin. These include the preparation and publication of a request for qualifications (or for proposals), receipt and evaluation of submissions, interviews and contracting. Even if expedited, it is likely that this process will take three to four months and it could take as long as six months. To assist in this process, a sample scope of services for jail planning is attached to this report. The scope covers the first three main steps in jail planning (needs assessment, feasibility study, and facility programming).

Observation 2: While the needs assessment prepared by the Omni Group in 2008 contains some useful data and analysis, it is lacking in certain important respects. First, it fails to evaluate scenarios that would entail implementation of further jail population management measures. This is part of the reason why it results in projection scenarios which may entail over-building of the jail. Second, it does not appear to have included a detailed profile of the inmate population. This information would be of great utility both with regard to the first item and also in further detailing the types of facilities and programs needed to serve the anticipated population. Third, the study did not include an examination of release mechanisms; this would also allow recommendations to be made concerning potential improvements in processing and other programs that could reduce length of stay (and therefore population).

Recommendation 2: The first main task for the corrections planner should be to update and expand the 2008 needs assessment, including the three elements identified above.

Observation 3: The Whatcom County justice and corrections systems are progressive and the various agencies and components appear to work together well and command each others mutual respect. However, an effective mechanism for shared problem-solving does not appear to be in place. (The Law and Justice Council, we were told, is perhaps a bit too unwieldy for such a purpose.)

Recommendation 3: In parallel with hiring the corrections planner, Whatcom County should create a Criminal Justice Planning (or Coordinating) Committee. While this committee could act on other issues, its main focus, at least initially, should be on reviewing practices and policies that impact the jail population. While jail population
management is not an explicit objective of many of the justice agencies, the charge of the group can be couched in terms of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the system (including improvements in public safety and reduction of recidivism) – or other goals which are broadly shared. Of course, several of the key members of such a committee are elected officials with specific mandates – so they can only be invited, not compelled, to join and participate. Other jurisdictions which have created such an entity have found that it can have many positive outcomes.

Observation 4: Prior studies and current discussions have focused on two main jail facility options: a “vertical”/downtown solution or a “horizontal”/out-of-downtown solution. The former has been criticized as potentially extremely tall (with up to 2,450 beds, it would require a huge skyscraper) and the later was said to require a very large site. Evidence and opinion has been marshaled that suggests that it is much cheaper to build and operate a
horizontal jail. While construction may be cheaper, this consultant is not convinced by the evidence presented so far that horizontal version would be much (if any) cheaper to operate. In addition, there are many other costs and perhaps benefits (monetary and intangible) that result from or accrue to jail location (certainly including transportation) which need to be included in the evaluation of options.

Recommendation 4: Expand the jail facility planning options and the sophistication of their evaluation. Revised (and likely lower) projections of need will reduce the scale of both of the options so that the vertical one may not be out of scale with downtown Bellingham and the horizontal one may not require as extensive or expensive a site. Abstract “rules of thumb” and results from other studies1 about costs of construction and operation should be avoided in favor of broader and more specific analyses that take into account likely staffing patterns, types of construction, site acquisition and development costs, and ancillary costs and benefits including transportation and time taken for law enforcement bookings (weighted by frequency from the various agencies), as well as many other important factors. It may be worthwhile to perform a comparative life-cycle cost analysis of options which would provide an excellent contribution to decision making and selection among options and help the County understand the long-term operating costs they would be buying into. (Admin highlight)

In addition, the range and variety of options should be expanded to include at least the following two items. One is the potential continued use (or expansion) of the existing work center, which appears to be a serviceable and appropriate facility. Among the questions that should be explored are these: do the original planning permissions and agreements allow its continued operations; what would be the cost to replace it or the likely value to be obtained from selling it; can it be expanded and to what extent (for added beds or for support services that could support the balance of the jail system such as kitchen, laundry and warehousing, all of which would provide work opportunities for the inmates), etc.? If the existing ±150 beds were retained and support services expanded at this site, it would substantially reduce the scope of the remaining jail bed needs, and the required area of the building and site. This might allow options to be feasible which would not be if they had to accommodate the entire jail program.

Another potential set of options concern the potential uses, if any, of the existing jail. The County is about to spend about $2.5M on upgrades to the structure and security systems. While the building may be currently unsafe and inefficient to operate as a secure jail, are there other correctional, law enforcement, or governmental uses that could reasonably be accommodated? If there are, what would the cost be to renovate and improve the building for these uses?

Possibilities that could be considered include the following:

• temporary holding and staging for inmates who are appearing in court (if transported from a remote jail or if connected to a new, adjacent downtown jail)
• housing of lower custody level inmates who might be participating in work crews or work release to jobs (or education release to schools) in the downtown area, day reporting (if such a program were instituted – since the location is very accessible and served with public transport), or trustee housing for those who would be needed to work in a downtown jail if one were constructed on an adjacent site
• mental health crisis stabilization center (in addition to or replacing the existing triage facility) which requires security and is intensively staffed anyway
• release location for inmates who were otherwise held at a new, remote jail
• offices for the Sheriff (allowing divisions to be co-located; though parking might not be adequate)
• general county offices or other facilities.

Likely, there are other potentially interesting options which should be considered.

Note that the suggested analyses are mainly conducted during the “feasibility” phase of work (after the needs assessment establishes the overall scope).

Observation 5: Jail planning projects are often driven exclusively by projected need – and that is how this project started – sometimes without regard for what can be afforded. This has sometimes led to what can reasonably considered to be disasters – such as jails that are built and then cannot be opened due to high operating costs, or jail operations absorbing so many resources that other equally important services and programs are curtailed.

Recommendation 5: Consider establishing a construction budget for the project, based on what the County can afford to pay or to finance, rather than allowing “needs” to be established independent of what can be afforded. This would encourage both that priorities be set (so that the most important ones are met) and also that cost-effective
means be explored for achieve the priorities. It is my experience that having a project budget is a great help in focusing the minds and attention of participants in the planning process. It also encourages focusing on needs versus wants, eliminating the “wish list”. Too many projects proceed without a real budget and end up with so-called “value engineering” which can result in poor or short-sighted cuts and real damage to a project’s quality. At the same time as construction budgets are established, it is essential that operating costs be projected (as suggested in Recommendation 4).

Observation 6: This will be one of (if not the) largest and most important projects that the County has undertaken. It will be much more likely to succeed under the guidance of a project manager with intelligence, experience with planning, design and construction (if possible of correctional facilities), people/communication skills, and perseverance. Ideally (and with great benefit), this individual would stay with the project for the four or more years it will take until it’s open and operating.

Recommendation 6: Assign or hire a project manager – or a program management company. The County may not have the in-house expertise or staffing available to manage such a project and could consider either hiring such an individual or obtaining the services of a program or construction management firm. Ideally, this person or firm would come on board starting around the time the corrections planner begins work – but no later than the feasibility study phase.

Observation 7: Jails are highly complex buildings and their planning, design and construction are critical to their mission and long-term operations and maintenance. For most jurisdictions, including Whatcom County, a main jail is built only once every generation. Therefore, the expertise available within the jurisdiction is limited.

Recommendation 7: Having available a team with deep experience in jail planning, design and construction is of great benefit to the quality and cost-effectiveness of a jail project, providing input to decisions made at the planning and programming phases. Thus, it is recommended that Whatcom County get the key design and construction players on board early. This may require a decision about how the project will be procured (traditional, design-build, CM at risk, or other method).

Cliff Notes: League Of Women Voters meeting

For your consideration.
(Notes and references below.)

This is a reprint (with her permission) of a comment by Whatcom County Exec candidate Joy Gilfilen on social media that I thought was a great summation of the larger issues surrounding the proposed county jail project: 

via Joy
I do not think this is party politic as much as it is the degenerative passion of an imploding prison industry…and we have to do the work to pull us out of the down-spiral.

Wednesday night at the League of Women Voters meeting, the speaker from Sea
ttle who has been working on these kinds of issues validated everything that the Coalition has been testifying and writing to the County Council, the County Executive, Mayors and Councilmen.

1) No Needs Assessment and no SWOT analysis to base this project on…there is no fiscal basis, no analysis of market trends. The County Executive continues to say there is one, yet has not produced it for the Jail Task Force, for the Council, nor upon request by the Restorative Community Coalition. Why not?

2) The prison industry has spiked and is in a downward trend now, so it is unwise to build a prison for the past, rather than one that reflects the future. This is the opposite of the (county) Executive Branch actions.

3) Over-criminalization is a problem in Whatcom County…with our Prosecutor in charge of the capacity to change it, the Sheriff has the ability to change it, the judges can change the overcrowding issues…all by simple bureaucratic actions. He was very clear that the roots of the problem with excessive incarceration is right here, right now. This is a locally controlled issue – and we were delighted to be second voiced by a man of this caliber. This flies in the face of what the Executive Branch (Louws) has been telling the Council on record.

4) He reiterated the stats provided by the Prosecutors a few weeks ago…that major crime has dropped 25 % in Whatcom County in the past few years. And that juvenile arrests are down about 80% in that same period of time. So why do we need to plan for expansion, when the stats clearly show a dramatic downturn? Furthermore, why are the jail bed stays/days increasing? He stopped short of saying that this might be an administratively created crisis. What he did recommend was to look at what they are doing in Spokane to bring a community coalition together with the Smart Justice banner.

All of this is true, and yes, this is happening on our watch. And it is time to stop the games of politics, and get down to solid business analysis…and on that level it fails also. More later…I gotta go.”

The comment (above) was in response to some back and forth on her original social media post commentary on the Herald article Bellingham council’s resistance casts doubt on jail plan

‘So the Executive says, “the county is likely to ask for something like a 20 cent per $1,000 property tax hike in 2016 to fund emergency medical services.” My gosh, where does he think this money is coming from? This is why it is critical to not put this ballot up to the voters – and to give the public time to find and propose alternatives.’ 

The comments references to the related Smart Justice meeting of the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County can be found on their website, along with a pdf of the meeting PowerPoint which I’ll also link here. SmartJusticeFairJustice – Cook

The incarceration reference information that was cited during the meeting presentation are found here. Smart Justice Fair Justice Incarceration data.

The exec and the sheriff are not presenting the full picture. They are presenting a terribly slanted view that not-so-coincidentally backs up their claims. Please share this information because a complicit local media that seems bent on backing anything the exec and the sheriff say are unlikely to present any of this information to you.

~PM

Tax & Spend……..Republican…..

Bellingham council’s resistance casts doubt on jail plan
(Click for Herald article)

Some pretty good reporting by Ralph Schwartz on the most recent back and forth between the City of Bellingham, the last hold out on the County Taxmageddon jail project.

The short version is that the Whatcom County Council punted on the jail vote since they knew it would put the political ball in COB’s court. It was a 6-1 yes vote to approve the plan, but it was also with the understanding that the COB wouldn’t even consider the cost sharing plan until it was approved by WCC.

I say they punted on it, essentially putting the final decision in COB’s hands. ie; Instead of making a decision that’s a rightful representation for the citizens of this county, giving an approval in deference to the COB’s final nod. That’s not leadership. That’s political gamesmanship.

Schwartz’s blog report in the Herald also sheds an interesting light on the position of the Whatcom County Executive, Jack Louws.

“According to an email from county Executive Jack Louws to City Council member Jack Weiss, the county would need to levy a property tax of 28 cents per $1,000 in value (about $75 a year for the median-priced home in the county) to pay off the $97 million bond. But property tax money can only be spent on construction. The county also would need to increase the sales tax by some lesser amount, say 0.1 percent, to pay for day-to-day operation of the jail.

“That would provide the city with the opportunity to do other public health and safety programs with the remaining 0.1 percent that would be available in the bank for the city to use in the future,” Weiss said Wednesday, June 10, in an interview. “That is something, my own personal thought is, that I am most in favor of — an approach like that. Other council members feel similarly.”

In his email to Weiss, Louws said a dual request to voters for property and sales tax hikes wasn’t feasible.

“Making two asks for the jail project is problematic to explain to voters, and problematic to legally tie together on (the) ballot,” Louws wrote in the May 19 email.

Besides, Louws said, the county is likely to ask for something like a 20 cent per $1,000 property tax hike in 2016 to fund emergency medical services.”

Hang on to your wallets and purses out there in rural/unincorporated Whatcom County……the tax man has eyes on your property/assets to fund his big jail project and he thinks you’re too stupid to understand the difference, or it’s not lawful, or something. The additional taxes for emergency medical services seems almost an afterthought to Louws.

I know that we recently underwent a sizable property tax increase and I know most other people in our circles did as well. Now there are trees galore out here in the county, so maybe Louws isn’t wrong to think that money just grows naturally on the trees out here in the county? I don’t know, but the current tax burden is painful as it is without any tax increases.

I sure wish I could find these magic money trees….

Case Study: Pennington County Jail, SD

County Information
There are many examples that could be studied to have a good grasp of what a proper jail facility that meets all pertinent national corrections standards. I picked this one because of the total cost of the two phase jail expansion project. $18 million. You read that right, $18 million dollars to expand and replace their existing 276 bed facility. (Ref: 11th paragraph)

Pennington County, South Dakota, aside from not having a border exposure like we do here, along with a smaller county population of approximately 108,242 (based on current U.S. Census data), does have some interesting factors that bring it into a rough equivalence with Whatcom County.

Namely Rapid City with a population of 70,812Ellsworth Air Force Base,  Thief River Falls Regional Airport and Mount Rushmore National Park, all of which bring considerable business, tourism and travel to Pennington County. Ellsworth Air Force Base is a military base obviously, but it is also essentially an international airport which USAF personnel and retirees use for ‘space A’ travel.

Having said all of that, Pennington County is not the same as Whatcom County and I’m not suggesting it is, but there are still many useful comparisons that can be drawn from studying their jail expansion project evolution. It all seems to have been very well thought out, well planned and perhaps the more interesting point,….with agreement and support from all county stakeholders.

“The current capacity of Pennington County Jail is 580, not including the 20 holding cells in the Booking area. The Pennington County Jail continues to embrace progress as it adapts to meet the ever changing needs of the citizens of Pennington County.” (Ref: last paragraph.)

Ref: Pennington County Jail History

The Jail Project
The jail expansions happened in two major phases resulting in construction and timely completion.

PHASE I: Pennington County Jail Annex, Pennington County, South Dakota, Skyline Engineering (Completed in 2006.) (Click link for downloadable pdf of Jail engineering doc from Skyline Engineering, LLC.)

The Pennington County Jail project included:
—A new 4-story, 128 bed multi-level security facility.
—Two full floors of additional shelled space for future development.
—The building is situated on the Courthouse Complex campus, adjacent to the Public Safety Building and the existing Jail.
—A new connector from the central plant to the facility.
—A three level parking structure was also included in the project.
—92,000 square feet.

Construction cost: $10 million

PHASE II: Pennington County Jail Expansion Project, Skyline Engineering (Completed in 2009.) (Click link for downloadable pdf of Jail expansion engineering doc from Skyline Engineering, LLC.)

—Completed two additional floors.

— 41,500 SF project involved finish of the shelled spaces.
—The second floor was finished to include 58 beds of minimum-security configured in sleeping bays.
—The third floor was finished for 24 cells of medium-security.
—Added 8 cells of maximum-security space.
—Additional dayrooms, showers, recreation spaces, multipurpose spaces and support facilities were developed for each finished level.
—The Mechanical and electrical designs extended the existing systems to support the new spaces.

Construction Cost: $5,800,000
Total jail project cost: $15.8 Million.

—The footprint of this building would easily fit in the parking lot adjacent to the Whatcom County Courthouse and would actually INCREASE parking as well as inmate capacity.
—The footprint of this structure would easily fit on the property already owned and permitted on Division Street too.
—In either location, the jail logistical/transport issues have already been worked out.

Why couldn’t an additional floor or two (or more) of maximum security space be added to this design for the Courthouse parking lot area or Division Street? A floor or two could also be added for alternative/medical/mental health services. They could be added subterranean to minimize building height.

In fact TWO more entire structures like this could be added to BOTH locations, as well as razing the current Sheriff’s Office/jail afterwards and building a brand new SO and it would still be a fraction of what we’re being told now.

Pennington County Sheriff’s Office
“The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office has 372 employees, an annual budget of approximately $28 million, and serves over 100,000 citizens spread out over Pennington County’s 2,784 square miles. We also serve a high number of visitors and tourists to our area as Pennington County is home to Mount Rushmore National Monument and Ellsworth Air Force Base.”

“City/County Alcohol & Drug Programs (CCADP) – provides a safe place for individuals struggling with the difficulty of addiction. CCADP houses the City/County Detox Center and serves a host of other individuals through various treatment programs. We currently have a capacity of about 110 beds.”

“Jail – We are very proud of the fact that our 587 bed jail complies with the national standards set by the American Correctional Association, (ACA) which safeguard the life, health and safety of our staff and individuals incarcerated within our jail.”

Ref: Pennington County Sheriff, South Dakota

In conclusion, if certain people weren’t playing political games, this expansion could have already been completed AND PAID FOR years ago with existing funds. Instead, today, twelve years after the first .1% jail tax was approved, we are still mired in costly and complicated political games, political agenda strategies and the like, primarily from two camps.

This should be a done and over issue, which could have made way in time and resources for progress on other fronts of public safety concern which I’ll come back around to later.

(In-progress. I’m short on time at the moment, so I’ll finish up/edit this later. I just wanted to get the rough information out now while it’s being debated, instead of waiting.)

Joy Gilfilen For County Executive

Joy Gilfilen has thrown her hat in the ring for the position of Whatcom County Executive.

Updates can be found on her facebook page: Joy Gilfilen For Whatcom County Executive.

Joy has some good ideas on how to reduce local incarceration and how to get the local criminal justice apparatus to work in a more efficient manner for all concerned.

She’s also against the big county jail project.

Some would no doubt ask me why I would choose to support a candidate with so many different views than I have as a conservative.

In response, I’d tell them that #1: I know what real conservatism is and I also know what it is not. I’m not a ‘republican,’ I’m a conservative. They are not the same things. They once were, but they aren’t today.

Too many people have confused playing sides, as in the other half of the local (D) vs (R) Hegelian dialectic, as ‘conservatism.’ It’s not. True conservatism is actually very close to classical liberalism, sharing many aspects. Libertarianism and classical liberalism are very close cousins, both of which overlap significantly with real conservatism (Note *)

#2: I’ll support anyone that is upfront and honest about what they believe, even if I disagree personally, providing they are willing to let the people’s voices be heard and will allow that to override their own preferences when that’s been made clear in a true democratic fashion.

Joy meets both of my criteria and as such has my support.

Currently, there are officials trying to hoodwink citizens of this county in order to further expand government and further tax already overly tax burdened citizens.

As a real conservative, those are two things I cannot abide.

* : This writer does not condone or accept the classical European and neo-European views of the various political ideologies or the political spectrum. I prefer the Americanism views, which incorporated the best of the best of the world, created a Representative Constitutional Republic form of government of We The People and in doing so changed the world for the better.

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville

This is fascinating to me.

Bellingham Herald: ‘Bellingham mayor ‘still in a quandary’ over jail funding plan’

The supposed ‘liberal democrat’ is the one being conscious of and carefully considering the impact of this jail project on the taxpayer. Not the supposed ‘conservative republican.’ What a world we live in, huh?

“We’d like to help people first,” before booking them into jail, Linville said.

In her criticism of Louws’ draft of the jail agreement, Linville said she would like to see a clearer division in how the 0.1 percent tax, the proposed 0.2 percent tax and a separate 0.1 percent sales tax for mental health and addiction services would be spent. (The latter tax is not considered part of the 0.3 percent limit.)

“I would prefer a cleaner option, but we need a new jail,” Linville said.

So the tax ante appears to actually be up to .4% now. The Herald article points out that the existing .1% tax, added to the proposed .2% tax, will actually include an additional .1% tax for mental health services, even though the latter is considered exempt from the .3% tax limitation for public safety.

Linville is clearly in agreement with the need for a new facility, as many are, including this writer.

I would like to stand and applaud Mayor Linville for looking out for the little guy. That’s what every public official should be doing and it’s one thing that seems all but absent from most of the discussions I’ve heard and read about this jail.

Regional Jail?

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:

“70.48.095 Regional jails.

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.

“RCW 36.28.160: Office at 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:
Downtown Jail - Steve“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.

New Jail Information & Crime Trends

Crime trends have been decreasing in the United States since the 90’s. Now to be clear, that’s a reference to rates, as opposed to numerical quantities, but the data is pretty clear that crime overall is decreasing in the US and has been since the 90’s.

This US crime trend graphic is based on FBI UCR data collected from all law enforcement agencies in the United States. That the data is pretty clear that crime is in fact on a decreasing trend, that’s a problem for people that want to build big expensive jails and plush sheriff ‘headquarters.’

US Crime Trends - 1960-2010- UCR

The graphic above stops at 2010, but to be sure, I went to FBI’s website to find the most current crime data and confirmed that the trend continues today based on the most current data.
Property Crime 2009-2013 - FBI Violent Crime 2009-2013 - FBI

Reference: FBI Property Crime data and FBI Violent Crime data pages.

The above data shows clearly that crime rates are in fact decreasing in the US. Similar data for Washington State shows trends in line with the above graphics, but I’ll have to add those later when I find them again.

Here’s one important aspect that is often overlooked by big government types who push these sorts of big projects, crime clearance rates. This is an important factor to consider as well and my experience has been that investigations are too often neglected and/or an underfunded police function. (I’m not blaming anyone or pointing fingers with this, because it’s much harder to accomplish than it might appear, trust me, but I don’t think it should be overlooked either.)

I’d suggest to you that it’s probably because there’s no money in it for the jail industry profiteers, which we’ll eventually get around to as well.

Crime Clearance Rates 2013 - FBI

Reference: FBI Crime Clearance data

The point of this information is that any discussions of increasing or growing incarceration capacities or capabilities needs to be within a context of understanding that includes acknowledging the decreasing crime trends.

I hadn’t checked in awhile, but I see that Whatcom County has done a very good job of providing one central place to find the supporting information for their case for the new jail project. It’s well organized, it looks nice and the information is easy to find. It’s well done.

I’m in the process of reviewing what has been posted (Whatcom County – New Jail Information) on the county website. It’s going to take some time to go through it all, but I thought I’d post it for anyone else who may have also been unaware.

Just a few early thoughts while I’m absorbing and digesting all of this new information. Fluff comes to mind. A lot of fluff. There is substance too, but it’s packaged in a bed of an awful lot of fluff. If it were such a clear and compelling need to do it the way that is being suggested, I would think a much simpler case could easily be made?

I couldn’t help but notice what appears to be an overly stringent adherence to, if not an embellishment of, national standards, law and higher federal authorities like the DOJ,….when it suits them, but when it doesn’t suit them,….not so much.

It’s clear the county exec, sheriff and I presume county prosecutor want a new facility done their way, but thus far I remain unconvinced that it’s a true necessity as presented, based on what I’ve seen so far, on other data and my own personal experiences. I do know this though, if there’s anyone that can fluff with the best of them, it’s Bill Elfo and he’s very smooth at it.

I’d like to hear about what is being done to enhance investigations, because Whatcom County’s crime clearance rates have not been the best either and surely would be in line with the national trends. I have a few examples to explore sometime later when time permits. One in particular I think you may find surprising.

One parting thought.

A key date is upcoming and I get the feel from the presentation that county officials feel that it’s already in the bag. ‘November 2015:  Ballot Measure for Sales Tax.’ The vote.

I’ve learned in discussions with others that state law allows for a maximum  .3% tax for public safety concerns. We already have a .1% tax for the interim jail facility on Division Street and I hear that the ballot measure will be for an additional .2% increase for the Labounty Rd. jail project. Hmmm.

The EHM Case Finale

The EHM Case Finale
(Since there wasn’t so much as a whisper of this in local ‘media.’) 

HR 1943 Bill Signing: The Official Photograph
The Governor’s Office, Olympia, Washington, May 18th, 2015

“I could (and have) said a lot about the state EHM problems leading to this moment, but I’ll put that aside now as a completed objective.

My heartfelt gratitude and personal thanks goes out to Scott Roberts and Glen Morgan of the Freedom Foundation, for investigating what I reported to them and for bringing the necessary scrutiny to this issue that ultimately led to the needed changes.

This is Governor Inslee signing into law the bill, HR1943, that passed unanimously through the Washington State Legislature. It was great to see legislators from both parties put aside partisanship to fix a serious public safety problem.

The new law defines, closes the existing loopholes and tightens regulations on existing electronic home monitoring (EHM) law, without creating new law. The perfect way to handle a problem such as this.

Fortunately, Scott and Glen, as well as the entire state legislature and Gov. Inslee, saw through the veil of deceit that Whatcom County officials threw up and around this issue.

I’m so very grateful for that and I now stand a vindicated man now for it.

Best regards,

     Paul Murphy

PS: Please excuse my ‘RV wear.’ We were literally enroute back home from a 2 week RV vacation through the Midwest when I got the call about the bill signing.”

Please forgive me for what may appear as a shameless self-promotion, but the local ‘media’ being what it is, unless I do so and tell you the story, you likely won’t hear one word of it otherwise.

Side Note:  Numerous attempts have been made in the past to get both the Bellingham Herald and KGMI radio to hear my side of the story. To this day, there has not been a single inquiry or response from either one, including the instances when KGMI radio wouldn’t even field or answer my phone calls in response to Dillon Honcoop and Bill Elfo’s on air bashings of me. Isn’t that special?

The EHM case, as it’s come to be known, has a long history that extends as far back as my troubles with Sheriff Bill Elfo do, to mid to late 2007. It’s one of two incidents that led to my running afoul of the incumbent sheriff, as one of his deputies, assigned at that time as a detective….the only time I can think of in my life when I was maligned and reprimanded for doing my job ‘too well.’

EHM is the acronym that stands for electronic home monitoring, meaning ankle bracelets and home detention. I don’t intend to re-litigate the entire sordid mess again here. That’s done and over as far as I’m concerned. That’s not the point of this, but a little backstory is necessary to get the picture of what led to the bill signing pictured above. I may link back to some past reports on the subject if there’s interest, but for now back to the bill signing.

The moment pictured above is my total vindication. Regardless of what Bill Elfo has conned people into believing, and has publicly stated on more than a few instances, the facts of the matter without my opinions, speak for themselves. The entire Washington State legislature and the current Governor of Washington State, by unanimously passing this bill, nodded in agreement.

Bottom line: I was right and I told the truth about all of it. Bill Elfo, David McEachran and Jack Louws were wrong and together orchestrated a number of internal circumstances to manufacture an end to my employment and my career in law enforcement.

So the day pictured above was an especially sweet vindication for me, personally.

The entire process seemed lengthy to me, but I’m told by those involved in the inner workings of Olympia that this bill made it through the process and to the Governor’s desk with lightening speed. Just shy of two years is what I understand. That it occurred with full bipartisan support speaks volumes to me about the necessity and the ability of those involved to see beyond parties and do what was right for public safety.

House Bill 1943 was the culmination of the efforts of many people without whose efforts, time, research, travel to Whatcom and other counties, etc., conducting their own investigation of what I reported, none of this would have happened at all. (This was necessary because of the veil of deceit and the manner in which the primary investigator, me, was marginalized by Whatcom County officials and maligned in the process. Please understand, this county went into full cover-up and denial mode over this.)

So my heartfelt thanks and gratitude go out to Scott Roberts and Glen Morgan, both of the Freedom Foundation at the time although I understand that Glen Morgan is now a free agent pursuing other interests.

They heard what I told them and took the time to look into what I reported. As unusual or unbelievable as it probably sounded to them at the time, they soon found on their own, through their own due diligence, that it was just as I said, perhaps that I had even understated it somewhat.

Anyway, without Scott and Glenn, it wouldn’t have happened at all and for that I’m eternally grateful. Rep. Matt Shea, the sponsor of the bill, has my gratitude as well because without a bill there can’t be a bill signing right? As well as Rep. Roger Goodman, who co-sponsored the bill.

Chris Ingalls of King 5 News also helped immensely.  Home monitoring reforms signed into law-King 5 The King 5 Investigates ‘Home Free’ series on the EHM problems throughout the state brought awareness to the problem that had previously been non-existent. Although I have not seen footage of it, Chris interviewed me in my home about this problem back when it was first being scrutinized by the Freedom Foundation. (I’ve seen no attribution to that effect, but I don’t think King 5 was aware of the problem beforehand.)

As to the backstory, for those who are curious and want to know more, here are a few links that should explain what happened, why and how I ran afoul of Bill Elfo, David McEachran and other Whatcom County officials:

Electronic Home Monitoring Fraud Investigation – The Genesis (A slideshare I put together to help people understand what happened and why.)

King Co. judges still letting violent suspects out on home detention – King 5 Home Free series

Electronic Home Monitoring-Are Criminals Left Unwatched?– Freedom Foundation

Whatcom County settles suit with ex-deputy, whistle-blower – Olympia Report

Whatcom County Settles Suit with Ex-Deputy, Whistle-Blower – Freedom Foundation

Whatcom County Jail

WCSO Jail - Front

Okay, here we go. Where to begin? There are many issues of importance and significance facing citizens of Whatcom County, Washington.

Some are more or less than others and some are insignificant in my estimation. I imagine we’ll get around to most of them in time, so let’s just dive in and get down to it. Of the issues of greater significance to all that I’m aware of, chief amongst those at the present time, in my estimation, are the current plans for a replacement county jail.

First, before going any further, I feel obligated to say upfront that I’m kind of diving into the middle of this without the benefit of being fully informed of the current status. I am aware of many aspects though and have been following the posts of others who have been very active in the process, so where I’m not fully up to speed now, I intend to be very soon.

Second, I do have considerable knowledge of the backstory of the jail evolution from an insider perspective as a former Deputy Sheriff of Whatcom County. I’ve been inside many times as a function of my former duties and have the benefit of many previous contacts, personal conversations, first hand observations and the like. Point is, I’m pretty familiar with how this current push came about and how it’s evolved into what it is now.

With that in mind, we do need a replacement jail. I don’t think there’s a reasonable argument to that. We have had need of a new jail for some time now. I’ve seen the damages, the wear, the broken items, the cracks in the walls, etc. However, something is amiss in the reasoning we’re all being media blitzed with now.

Currently, the county has completed the purchase of the new jail site property on LaBounty Rd. in Ferndale, just west of the intersection with Sunset Ave. The price tag for that piece of property was $6 million as I understand it. The recent Bellingham Herald article indicated that the price tag for the project has reached a new high of approximately $135 million (Yes, you read that right) and that’s where I’d like to begin.

For a county of this size, 208,351 (according 2014 US Census data), or approximately 1/34th of the total for Washington State’s 39 counties combined, doesn’t that register as being a bit on the high side? Quite a bit, I think and a number of questions come to mind as well, like how did we get from the need for a basic jail, to what appears to be a plan for a Taj Mahal jail?

This is cause for concern on the expenditure alone, but let’s go beyond that to a couple of examples of jails that haven’t turned out so well in spite of every assurance by elected officials to the contrary on the front end.

Once finished, Thurston County’s brand new $50 million dollar jail, completed 4 years ago…..hadn’t seen a single inmate as of the date of this 2014 article in The Olympian. The reason? Funding. Apparently the actual operating costs came as a complete surprise to local Thurston County officials.

Next we look to Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit), where officials conned the voters into building a $300 million dollar jail, broke ground 4 years prior and spiraling costs forced the project to be shut down 4 years ago. Detroit finally pulled the plug on the project and it is now unfinished AND costing taxpayers $1.2 million per month in debt service and upkeep just to maintain the incomplete albatross facility.

The comments of Rose Bogaert, head of the Wayne County Taxpayers Association and chair of the Michigan Taxpayer Alliance said it all for me:

“The Wayne County Jail was a mess since it was created. At this point, the only thing we should do is cut our losses…. If someone is willing to purchase it, we should sell it. Everyone knows that these projects never stay within budget, and this one was in a bad location to begin with,” she added. “It never made sense. There needs to be more thought put into these projects before they start building.”

Yes. I agree. That’s the thing that this taxpaying resident sees missing from the discussion and reporting on this jail project and that’s what needs to be addressed right now.

This part was particularly intriguing to me:

“The Wayne County Jail was originally proposed as a $300 million, 2,000-bed jail that would combine the other county correctional facilities. Ground was broken on the work site in September 2011, but was stalled nearly two years later, in June 2013, when a 60-day suspension was imposed after projected cost overruns totaled nearly $100 million. Construction never resumed, and later that summer, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the project.

The investigation led to the arrest of former Wayne County Chief Financial Officer Carla Sledge, attorney Steven Collins and construction manager Anthony Parlovecchio.”

Supporters will no doubt say, ‘Well, that’s Detroit.’ While that may be true, I’d counter that $135 million dollars for a relatively small county, population-wise, even with our border exposure and special considerations that come with it, still just doesn’t add up.

Additionally, the way this jail project is being undertaken gives additional cause for alarm.

Post script:
I did some figuring on my handy calculator and came up with this. Based on current US Census data, the total county population is 208,351 persons. If you subtract from that number those under 18 years of age and those over 65, roughly 35.2% of those persons are not in the labor force, or 73,339 persons.

That leaves approximately 135,012 county residents who would potentially be earning wages and paying taxes (at full employment, which we all know it’s not). So the best case is approximately $1,000 per person in additional jail tax today, assuming the project remained within budget.