Jail Population Cap Justification and Explanation
The jail has 74 general population male inmate beds and 20 female beds for a total of 94. This does not include the 18 beds for the Alternative Sentencing program. The jail was originally built and designed for 48 prisoners. Throughout the years, additional bunks were added and remodels occurred resulting in the current bed count. In April, 2016 I became aware of confusion by some members of the BOCC on how many beds actually existed in the facility. On April 24th, we gave tour to the Commission and physically counted bunks which totaled the number just mentioned.
Today members of this community are still telling us some members of the BOCC are confused about the number of inmate beds and have stated the jail has plenty of space and staff to not necessitate a reduced inmate population cap and booking restrictions.
The 2017 approved jail budget, which is a sub budget under the Sheriff, was approved by the BOCC at $4, 973,427. In June 2017 the BOCC announced a 7.5% mid- year reduction, cutting the jail budget by $373,000 + $157,160 from the efficiency savings cited below = $530,160.
Of the 4.9 million; 3.4 million is for salaries and benefits which are exclusively negotiated between the Corrections Deputy Union and the BOCC (the Sheriff has no control over); 700K for inmate medical services; 200K for inmate food; 200K for overtime/holiday pay; that leaves $400,000 for ER&R, inmate supplies, operational supplies, training, etc. The point of this is there is very little discretionary funds available to cut.
Since September 2016, the jail staff has concentrated on efficient and safe operations; we managed to reduce the inmate food costs from $450,000 annually to less than $200,000 by contracting services from private industry; we eliminated $300,000 in outsourcing expenses by opening the remodel and housing our own females on site; and with the cost savings efficiencies realized by the jail staff, we opened the Alternative Sentencing area 4 months early without BOCC funding.
The jail has 31 uniformed Corrections Deputy positions, 2 support staff, 3 Community Service Officers, 1 Lieutenant, and 1 Chief. The 2016 average jail inmate population was 130. The minimum staffing to manage this population while maintaining custody, security, and control of prisoners in a safe, efficient, and constitutional manner is 4 Deputies, 24 hours a day 365 per year, (one control room operator, one supervisor, and two Deputies to take care of operational duties).
During the mid-year 2017 cuts, we had 5 vacant Deputy positions we were in the process of filling. Those 5 vacant positions equated to an annual expense of $425,000. Faced with non-emergent and excessive mid- year cuts we had very limited options and had to un-fund the vacant Corrections Deputy positions. This resulted in a 15% reduction of jail staff (31 Deputies to 26). As some may know, it takes roughly 5 employees to cover one 8- hour shift seven days per week 365 per year. This reduction forced us to reduce our minimum staffing by one eight-hour shift position, on night shift, from 4 to 3 Deputies, often leaving one supervisor, one control room operator, and one operations Deputy to manage 90-100 inmates between the hours of 2200 and 0600.
To manage the general inmate jail population above 94, we need the 31 previously funded uniformed Deputy Positions.
The Sheriff’s obligation is to provide safe, efficient, effective work and living conditions for our jail staff and inmates while protecting our community. We cannot keep our inmates, community, and staff safe while managing the same number of inmates with 15% less staff. With the reduction of staff, we were forced to reduce the inmate population cap proportionately resulting in a new cap of 80 inmates.
The only way to manage a jail population cap is by carefully selecting who takes priority for the jail beds during the jail acceptance process; people who are an imminent threat to community safety will always have a bed, people contacted for minor offenses will be allowed to self-report to the courts, people committing serious crimes against others will be booked, and people committing property crimes will generally be referred to the Prosecutor.
Despite our desire to fulfill our mission and due to circumstances beyond the Sheriff’s control; without proper funding, staffing, and facility space the jails essential purpose cannot be fulfilled and public safety is compromised.
Chief Kevin Hanson
Mason County Sheriff’s Office