Washington statutes require that Whatcom County house all persons charged with felony crimes and for misdemeanor arrests made by the Sheriff's Office or state law enforcement. We are also required to detain fugitives wanted in other states. The cities are responsible for housing misdemeanor arrests made by their police departments. Due to a cooperative agreement, Whatcom County operates the only jail system in the County and, since 1984, has housed offenders on charges generated by all cities and tribes.
I believe the main jail simply needs to be replaced. Under our charter and form of government, it is not the sheriff who decides if, when or how the jail is replaced. The sheriff does not establish tax policy and does not have the authority to set government priorities, place taxation proposals on the ballot, or determine how costs are allocated. It is his responsibility to operate the jail in a safe, humane and constitutional manner. He follows the recommendations of the many citizen committees and professionals who were asked to assess this problem and reached similar conclusions.
We have reached the point where we must reduce the population of the main jail to more safe and manageable levels, thus a population cap. Once that cap is reached, cities and tribes will have to transfer those not released at first appearance to another jail. These procedures will need to begin right away.