by Edward Alexander
Local attorney, president of Board of Directors of Whatcom Peace & Justice Center
The County Council is voting on the Comprehensive Plan tonight. Just ahead of the meeting, at 5:30, some folks from INK (Imagine No Kages) are getting together near the Centennial Pole next to the Courthouse steps to hand out fliers and ask people to use part of their three-minute public comment to tell the County Council they oppose the plan in Appendix E to spend an additional $112,000,000 on incarcerating people in Whatcom County. I believe allocating that much additional money to incarceration could lead to a big increase in incarceration.
Here’s why: The capacity of the main jail is 212 inmates. The minimum-security facility holds an additional 150 people. Last year, voters voted down a $100,000,000 proposal to build a new 521-bed jail. My sources for the numbers are below. Tonight, the County Council is voting on a comprehensive plan that includes $112,000,000 for an incarceration facility.
Although the plan explicitly and intentionally leaves out the number of people we will be incarcerating at this facility, $112,000,000 is more than enough to build the 521-bed jail that voters rejected last year. Upping the number of beds in the jail from 212 to 521 would more than double the jail size.
Here’s the specific language from pages 13 and 14 of Appendix E of the Proposed Whatcom County 20 Year Capital Facilities Plan (emphasis added):
In an effort to meet the community need, the County plans to construct a new, expanded,
April 16, 2016 Bellingham Herald article, "Whatcom County executive: Ask voters for new jail tax before EMS"
October 23, 2015 Bellingham Herald article, "What’s true, false in claims about Whatcom County Jail"
July 27, 2016 Northern Light editorial, "Guest editorial: Bill Elfo, Whatcom County Sheriff"
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