Civil rights activists opposed to a new $226 million city jail have argued all along that it wasn't needed because jail bookings have been dropping. At least in the short term, Kurt Triplett, the interim county executive who has taken over from Ron Sims, agrees.
On June 10, citing a "dramatic drop" in felony bookings since late 2007, Triplett announced the county is willing to extend its contract with the 36 cities that currently use the county's two jails by offering 300 beds through 2015. That's a three-year extension from 2012, when the county projected it would reach capacity at its Seattle and Kent jails -- a move made largely for the reasons activists have pointed out.
"It is believed that programs such as alternatives to detention and a prosecutorial change in which crimes are filed as misdemeanors or felonies have... contributed to the decrease in daily jail populations," Triplett's news release says. "Additionally, the jail has seen a 25 percent drop in bookings by Seattle police, its biggest user of jail space."
After the county said it couldn't share any more jail beds, Seattle and a group of municipalities called the North/East Cities started planning their own misdemeanant jail -- a 640-bed facility that the county's extension hasn't halted, just slowed down, according to a statement the group released the same day. "While this will give us a more realistic development schedule," the NEC says, "it does not address the issue of long-term jail capacity."
A group of grassroots activists has been trying to stop the new jail through Initiative 100, a Seattle measure that Real Change supports, which would put the new jail up for a vote. In a last-day push to collect the signatures needed to get the measure on the fall ballot, I-100 supporters are planning a signature-gathering rally Wed., July 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on the steps of City Hall.