Questions size of new county jail

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 22, 2014 

In the Dec. 8, 2013 issue of The Oregonian, they ran the article "Wapato jail is back in the conversation." County taxpayers had approved a bond measure in 1996 to build a 168,000-square-foot, 525-bed jail. They never budgeted money to open and operate it. For over 10 years they spent about $300,000 a year to change the air filters and keep the water pipes from freezing. It has never housed a prisoner and now their "leaders" are trying to find a highest and best use for the facility. They are thinking about using it as a homeless haven or a lease space to filmmakers. And Bellinghamsters think that we are the only place where the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

Nevertheless, their experience raises these thoughts:

The personal use and possession of marijuana is now legal in the state of Washington and the federal government may follow in the coming decades.

The state is likely to reduce the DUI limit to 0.06 or 0.04 from 0.08 in a similar time frame. What is the likelihood of this happening and the impact on arrest rates?

What is our best guess about the number of prisoners we will need to house in our proposed jail?

What are the options for the expected reduction in prisoner population, i.e. could we add a floor to the existing jail?

Charles Smith

Blaine

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