Puyallup to pursue agreement to house inmates elsewhere

Increased inmate population in danger of exceeding capacity

Staff writerMay 14, 2014 

The city of Puyallup’s 52-bed jail is averaging a daily population of 51.88 this year, about 99.7 percent of maximum capacity.

On May 6, the Puyallup City Council unanimously approved for City Manager Bill McDonald and Chief Bryan Jeter to negotiate and execute an interlocal agreement with the Nisqually Jail, the South Correctional Entity in Des Moines and the Yakima County Jail — a contract that would provide housing for offenders serving longer sentences for gross misdemeanors like DUI’s and domestic violence.

“We’re being proactive,” said Lt. Ed Shannon, who manages the city jail. “We don’t want to wait to be at maximum population. This (interlocal agreement) will allow us to remain under the 52-bed population. We see the possibility of us going over and we want to avoid that.”

According to a city report, the jail expanded from 38 beds to 52 beds in 2006. For several years following, the jail operated within capacity. Because of uncontrollable variables, the population at the jail has swelled and is now verging on unsustainable.

“It’s a matter of population,” Shannon said. “Throughout the years, as the population (of the area) has increased, more patrol officers are on the streets. It’s resulted in more arrests. As the laws have changed, it’s caused more inmates to remain in custody for longer periods of time.”

Shannon explained that gross misdemeanor crimes such as domestic violence that used to be bailable under older laws are now no more. This change in law has caused a lot of defendants to remain in custody until arraigned.

Shannon said the Puyallup Municipal Court has helped keep the jail population down by providing more arraignment days. Arraignment days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Shannon said the jail population tends to swell over the weekend and by Monday offenders are arraigned and then released.

“Even with that in place, we see a trend going upward,” Shannon explained. “We have proactive police officers. They do a fine job with what they’re tasked to do. It’s not their main focus to arrest. However, they do arrest people who are suspected of committing serious offenses.”

While the dominant population at the city jail at any given time is made up of DUI and domestic violence offenders, Shannon said officers certainly make arrests for other offenses, such as theft.

Shannon said the police department hopes to pencil out an interlocal agreement with the three regional agencies before the end of the year. The cost to the city of Puyallup would be on a per inmate, per day basis. There would be no charge to the city for transferring inmates.

“Because Yakima has contracts with outside agencies, they run a transportation system,” Shannon said.

Nisqually and the South Correctional Entity are also experienced in these kind of interlocal agreements and would provide similar transportation services, Shannon added.

A city report said an interlocal agreement in the long-term would provide the jail with “opportunities for increased efficiencies, better inmate care and proper facility management.”

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