Tag Archives: jail

Re: Bill Elfo’s Lynden Tribune Article Supporting 3rd Jail Tax (18OCT17)

A well written comment to a post I shared on facebook. From Joy Gilfilen, President of Restorative Community Coalition and host of Joy Talk radio.

Joy really nailed it on this, in my opinion.

“Thank you Paul for standing up and speaking out against the monstrous jail tax. This is a manufactured crisis to expand the jail industry in Whatcom County. I filed documents that essentially prove this back in 2016 called Noble Cause Corruption.

Today, I would take it further: The economic jail industry expansion game the top three law enforcers in this county are playing is a form of immoral extortion being perpetrated against law-abiding citizens. They are playing a game like jail monopoly in the boardgame world, to see how much money they can take from taxpayers as they put us in more tax bondage or in jail (to divide and conquer) before we figure out their game is complete domination of the board. The only way out is to vote REJECT.

When you get the facts, it is pretty clear that the master big government/quasi-corporate jail industry goal is to expand the market for punishment in the deep northwest corner of the US – on the back of locals. Once people get arrested they lose thousands to the jail industry privateers – the highly paid contractors who make money on the side – that never goes through the county coffers. And most “nice people” who have not been accused or had to defend themselves against the law enforcers and courts have no idea this even happens.

My experience is that the Sheriff specifically right now is using his authority under color of law to dominate the game. Teamed up with the Prosecutor and the Executive, they have been using deceptive methods to hunt down and prey on decent people. One of the most deceptive is the game where they prey on people’s trust in God…for these three all swear on a bible when they take the oath of office. So honest people trust them to uphold honor, freedom and we trust them to protect us.

When these people deceive us it hurts. It took me a long time to finally discover the truth. And it felt like the sickest form of deep betrayal when I finally got the facts, and the inevitable conclusion violated my sacred trust on every level. They are not telling the truth.

After reading the Sheriff’s article in the Lynden Tribune published Oct. 18, 2017 I realized that this was the most brilliant piece of deception I have ever read. It is grooming innocent taxpayers for the takedown – and he is doing it brazenly, in public, so no-one will have time to call him out before the vote. Without technically telling an untruth, Elfo avoids responsibility for the fact that he has been the person in responsible charge who could have repaired the jail using the extra $15.7 Million a year we entrust to him. Instead, in this article, he told readers that up was down, and that down was up…and they should believe him because he is the Sheriff.

Nope. I will no longer shake hands with any one of the top three elected officials in this county. I will not shake hands with the jail director, or anyone else who is persecuting people for profit and punishing the decent citizens who pay their salaries. That is upside down and I will not dishonor my hand…and I stand against paying more taxes to incarcerate more non-violent people and children so that the courts and cops get bigger.

It is with very deep sadness that there is no time left to do a duel of facts in the court of public opinion…for I object to every single paragraph he wrote on both factual and moral grounds.”
~Joy Gilfilen

Jail Mailer Public Disclosure Commission Complaint

Re: Whatcom County Jail Mail Flyer PDC Complaint and Evidence Of Noble Cause Corruption In Whatcom County

First off, what is noble cause corruption? It’s a fairly obscure legal term, but it’s really quite simple. Wikipedia defines it like this:

Noble cause corruption is corruption caused by the adherence to a teleological ethical system, suggesting that persons “will utilize unethical, and sometimes illegal, means to obtain a desired result,”[1] a result which appears to benefit the greater good. Where traditional corruption is defined by personal gain,[2] noble cause corruptions forms when someone is convinced of their righteousness, and will do anything within their powers to obtain or concertize the execution of righteous actions. Ultimately, noble cause corruption is police misconduct “committed in the name of good ends”[3] or neglect of due process through “a moral commitment to make the world a safer place to live.”[4]

Conditions for such corruption usually begin where individuals perceive no administrative accountability, lack of morale and leadership, and the general absence of faith within the criminal justice system.[5] These conditions can be compounded by arrogance and weak supervision.[6]

That may not sound so bad on first reading, but it really is and it’s every bit as ‘corrupt’ as other forms of corruption.

When a person in a position of power and authority decides to use and/or abuse that power for the greater good, just about anything can be twisted or manipulated into a greater good scenario. Once that line is crossed, what’s to stop them from using and/or abusing that power in other ways?

It’s especially dangerous when people who are skilled and experienced at articulating greater good arguments, or scenarios, because they are no longer basing decisions or actions on fundamental principles of constitutionality, law or morality, but instead become narrowly focused on how to say, write or push a thing to justify (rationalize) it.

That’s what myself and others contend Whatcom County has done in the most recent Jail Tax measure, the jail mailer, as well as many other aspects relating to the siting and acquisition of the land where the proposed regional jail might go in Ferndale.

The Complaint

This has been in the works for some time now, but I’ve not been able to say anything publicly about it until it was finalized and formally submitted to the PDC, AKA the Public Disclosure Commission. 

The PDC is actively investigating the complaint and although I’m aware of parts of the process, I don’t yet have a full picture or scope of what is happening and where it’s going, so it would be inappropriate for me to say more beyond that just yet. I am being told privately, however, that the PDC has taken issue with aspects of the county’s actions in respect to the jail mailer.

I’m not entirely sure how many people were involved in providing source information for the complaint, but I do know it was more than a few, with some info and minor input also provided by me.

The large majority of the work, the research, the compiling of information, the graphic illustrations, however, were done by Joy Gilfilen and Irene Morgan and they did a spectacular job. It’s very professional, very accurate, sourced and corroborated, and it’s on point with the areas of contention.

There is a lot of information contained in the links provided below so you’ll want to take some time to process and digest it. As you begin to digest the information contained in the complaint and evidence addendums, a picture should begin to form in your mind. If you’re like many of us, you won’t like what the mental picture shows.

Minimally, it should become fairly clear that what you’ve been told, or led to believe, by county officials, isn’t what is really going on. That alone should raise red flags in any county taxpayer’s mind.

The Documents

PDC Complaint – Gilifilen vs Whatcom County Officials 11-30-2015

Evidence Addendums to the PDC – Part 1 of 3

Evidence Addendums to the PDC – Part 2 of 3

Evidence Addendums to the PDC – Part 3 of 3

Excerpted from the complaint:

Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo
Whatcom County Prosecutor David S. McEachran

-RCW 42.17A – Election Law Violations and WAC 390-05-273 – Normal and Regular Conduct Violations

-Whatcom County Charter and Whatcom County Code Violations
-Revised Code of Washington Violations
-Washington Administrative Code Violations
-American Bar Association Standards Violations regarding Housing of Inmates
-Washington State Constitution Violations
-United State Constitution and the Bill of Rights Violations

The complainant has reason to believe that serious violations of law may have occurred in Whatcom County during the 2015 Election Campaign season that deserve outside scrutiny.

Injustice under color of law
The system of governance in Whatcom County appears to have been corrupted to encourage voters to pass two more taxes to resolve a conflict created by and benefiting the administration. This created a self-destructive condition in which the drive to pass the tax compromised public safety to justify an expansion that would profit earmarked regulatory government departments and state and national jail and prison vendors; leaving the taxpayers compromised with excessive debt and expanding overhead.”

The Louwsy Jail Deal: A Whatcom County Jail Boondoggle…

Public Corruption Files: The Louwsy Jail Deal: A Whatcom County Jail Boondoggle…

….that put a few cool million in Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws’ pockets. $4.19 Million to be exact.
(Edit:  I’ve been corrected on the dollar amount since it’s really not known exactly how much Jack Louws made on his property deal. It’s believed to be closer to $3 million and I said ‘Oh, is that all?’  Apparently he had to pay a company to construct a building on that property first, before selling it,….a company he owns…..;/ )

Well no wonder Jack Louws is so set on railroading the project and ramrodding the suspiciously ‘chosen’ jail location….. that Whatcom County residents have already paid for, $150,000 per acre, in an area that is assessed at an average $30K per acre.

That’s kind of a coin-ki-dink, isn’t it?

What other purpose would Jack Louws have had to buy an adjacent property in a nowhere location,….unless he knew in advance that would also be the location he would himself secretively select, stick to and defend, when many other much more cost effective options exist, as the one and only location that would be acceptable for a jail project that he is also pushing?

This is unacceptable and the way this process has been undertaken from the outset is corrupt.

Sorry, but there is no other word for it.

It didn’t quite make sense then, but I can see now why Jack repeatedly denied my well proven whistleblower complaints, requesting he intercede in Bill Elfo’s manufactured termination of my employment from Whatcom County.

Good work over at Northwest Citizen. I wish I had more time to do that sort of gumshoe investigative work, but I can’t. I’m too busy trying to survive.

Click here for the original report by Northwest Citizen.

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.


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.)

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.

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.

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.