Seattle may not need new jail until at least 2030

Apr 14, 2011

It could be two decades before Seattle needs more jail beds for its misdemeanor inmates. City and King County leaders say that’s the expected result of a new agreement.

The deal extends an arrangement the city and county struck last year to house some of Seattle’s jail population in the county’s downtown facility. That brought an end to a controversial search for a new city jail site.

Mayor Mike McGinn says he’s glad that’s off the table for now:

“What we knew was that if we did not have some type of long term, stable relationship on how to deal with the issue, that some point out in the future, maybe four or five years out, we may have to start looking at that again.  And that would’ve been difficult for us.”

The arrangement would cost Seattle $11 million a year. McGinn says that’s cheaper than any other alternative the city was considering and far less than a new jail.

King County Executive Dow Constantine says the county would also benefit because the jail’s inmate population and revenues would be more predictable. Since 2007, the number of inmates in King County's facilities has dropped, leaving excess jail space and less money for the county.

The Seattle City Council and King County Council need to approve the agreement before it goes into effect.