King County may cut 40 positions at jails in Kent, Seattle

King County may cut as many as 40 positions in 2013 at jails in Kent at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center and at its Seattle Correctional Facility. - Kent Reporter, file photo
King County may cut as many as 40 positions in 2013 at jails in Kent at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center and at its Seattle Correctional Facility.
— image credit: Kent Reporter, file photo

As many as 40 positions could be cut at King County jails at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent and the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle.

The cuts are expected next year because of the state's Department of Corrections plan to reduce its use of local jail beds will mean fewer inmates in King County jails and a projected $9.4 million drop in jail revenues, according to a Aug. 30 media release from the county's Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.

King County also projects revenue loss of another $4 million in 2013 as contracts with other jurisdictions to house inmates drops.

“The state’s latest policy change – the new ‘swift and certain’ program to address parole violators – certainly seems to be promising public policy, but the loss of nearly $10 million in expected state revenues in one year is simply too much for us to make up through savings or efficiencies,” said Claudia Balducci, director of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.

While Balducci said her department’s budget proposal may call for 40 or more position reductions for next year, 20 of those positions are vacant or expected to be vacant by the end of the year, and she said she will manage staffing to minimize the need for any actual layoffs. Final numbers will be reflected in the 2013 Executive Proposed Budget to be delivered to the King County Council in September.

The state Department of Corrections (DOC) contracts with King County to house an average of 6,844 felons annually since 2008 who have been released from prison, and who have violated the conditions of their release. These so-called “DOC violators” are sent back to jail to await an administrative hearing. Since 2008, the county booked an average of 6,844 state inmates a year, and held about 330 a day.

Under the new “swift and certain” law enacted by the Legislature this year, the punishment happens more quickly, resulting in much shorter jail stays and an overall reduced usage of the local jail system.

“Swift and certain” is the latest in a series of moves by the state that have curtailed revenues to counties:

From 2008 to 2010, the state reduced the types and numbers of offenders it supervised after their release from prison.

In 2011, the Legislature capped the rates that DOC may pay to local jails for providing beds for state inmates. The contracted daily rate paid to King county was cut from $92 to $85 for most inmates, and the county may no longer bill the state for any increases due to the cost of housing state inmates.

Helping to stabilize King County’s jail budget is the long-term regional contract the Executive negotiated and signed last year with the city of Seattle providing for more predictable bed space for the city and more predictable revenues for the county – and averting the need for Seattle and the northeast cities to build their own municipal jail.

Balducci said the jail is implementing a number of savings and efficiencies, including some suggested by employees, that will help to avoid potential layoffs, including:

• Making staffing changes that reduce the cost impact of inmates with severe and more expensive needs, such as psychiatric conditions.

• Saving $14,000 a year by replacing bottled water with filtered water, and delaying purchases when possible.

The King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention currently has the equivalent of 939 full-time positions, of which 540 are corrections officers. Its budget is $130.2 million, nearly three-fourths of which is in the Adult Divisions.

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