Snohomish County rejects Whatcom bid for jail space, sheriff’s office explores options


Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office is looking for options to free up space in an overcrowded Whatcom County Jail after Snohomish County informed it would not have the resources to house 45 Whatcom inmates.

According to an August 30 email from Snohomish County Jail bureau chief Jamie Kane to Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office chief of corrections Wendy Jones, the Snohomish County Executive’s Office had concerns over the assumption of liability for Whatcom County inmates and an inability to hire more corrections staff. 

Kane wrote that he had 17 vacant deputy positions when discussions about Snohomish County Jail taking on Whatcom inmates began. As of August 30, Kane said he was down 42 positions and had no corrections deputy applicants in queue. 

Kane also said Snohomish County officials “were inundated with complaints from their constituents after reading our local newspaper’s article about this potential partnership.”

The following day, Whatcom County sheriff Bill Elfo informed county staff via email that the sheriff’s office was identifying other inmate housing options, but that other options are likely to cause inconveniences. 

“The downtown jail continues to operate an unsustainable level,” Elfo said in an email. “We need to follow our responsibility to operate the jail in a constitutional and safe manner and will do so. It is likely that current restrictions and requests of the courts will need to increase in both scope.”

Whatcom County Council approved a $1.2 million interlocal agreement with Snohomish County August 9 to use up to 45 beds at Snohomish County Jail in Everett. The contract was through 2023 and the proposed $1.2 million would have been used to cover the needs of Whatcom County inmates transferred to the jail.

With the option off the table, Elfo and the sheriff’s office will have to find another option. 

As of September 12, Whatcom County Jail had a total of 325 people under supervision, with 12 on electronic home detention, according to jail data. A total of 62 individuals were booked into the jail in the week ending September 10 and 55 people were released from custody.

The main jail was built to hold 148 people, but with limited remodeling, the operational capacity of the main jail should be 212. The absolute capacity of the Whatcom County Jail Work Center is 150 beds. Approximately 70 beds are reserved for full custody, lower security offenders.


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