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Prisoners to be sent to rural area jails
"The city of Federal Way will start sending its long-term prisoners to jails in Chelan and Okanogan counties as early as this month in an attempt to cut escalating jail costs.This week, the Federal Way City Council unanimously approved forming interlocal agreements with the Eastern Washington counties to take prisoners with sentences of longer than 30 days. About a third of Federal Way's prisoners could be sent to the rural jails. Municipal Court Judge David Tracy already has identified three prisoners being held at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent who could be moved to the Chelan or Okanogan jail, said city spokesman Derek Matheson. Police and court officials are eager to start sending prisoners to those facilities.My understanding is they wanted to do that as the ink dried on the contract, Matheson said.People held before trial and those sentenced to shorter terms would continue to be lodged at the Regional Justice Center.King County charges a $137.65 booking fee per prisoner and $63.83 a day. In contrast, the Chelan County Regional Jail in Wenatchee charges $56 per day for male inmates and $60 for female inmates and no booking fee. Okanogan County Jail in Okanogan charges a $20 booking fee and $42 per day. If the city had continued to send all its prisoners to King County, jail costs would likely have jumped to $2.7 million next year, according to Iwen Wang, the city's Management Services director. Sending long-term prisoners to Chelan and Okanogan counties, along with cost-saving alternatives like electronic in-home monitoring, will reduce those costs to about $1.5 million in 2001, Wang said.We can save a lot of tax dollars, said Mayor Michael Park at Tuesday's City Council meeting.Both jails will transport prisoners from King County weekly. Okanogan will charge the city 32.5 cents per mile, for an average round trip cost of $77.35 per trip. Neither jail will return prisoners here upon release.Councilman Phil Watkins asked if the two county jails guarantee Federal Way slots in their jails - Is this like making reservations at the Holiday Inn? They don't, said City Manager David Moseley, but the Chelan jail is adding 100 beds by spring to accommodate Western Washington cities priced out of the King County jail.Sending prisoners to these rural jails is one of several avenues we want to investigate, Moseley said. At this time, these are the two jurisdictions who offered some space, he told the council.Interim Public Safety Director Tom Chaney said the city remains interested in contracting with the city of Fife, which is considering re-opening the city's 24-bed jail and possibly hiring a firm to build and manage a 500-bed jail.Other Puget Sound cities are sending prisoners to small, local jails to save money. The city of Maple Valley has sent most of its prisoners to Enumclaw, which charges a flat $50-per-day fee, since Maple Valley's department formed in April 1998, said Enumclaw Police Chief Reid Johnson.The only problem is (Enumclaw) can only accept the best of the best prisoners, Johnson said. That's why RJC is a lot more expensive. They take everybody. Enumclaw picks and chooses. They don't take people with (psychiatric) problems. They don't have people with disabilities.Earlier this year, Maple Valley, like Federal Way, researched the Chelan and Okanogan jails and decided to send long-term prisoners as well as prisoners Enumclaw won't take to Okanogan.The decision of cities like Federal Way and Maple Valley to send prisoners to jails outside King County doesn't surprise Dave Miller of the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs.In fact, the association is studying whether cities, such as Fife, could benefit from turning their jails into regional facilities, Miller said. The Chelan County Regional Jail is the only regional facility in the state; its partners are Chelan County, Douglas County and the city of Wenatchee.It's still a situation where cities can't afford to run their own (jails), Miller said. They're stuck contracting and the costs are going up. I think everybody is frustrated the costs are escalating. "