After years of worrying that Seattle’s King County jails would become packed beyond capacity – and telling cities they must send their misdemeanor inmates elsewhere – county officials face a regional glut of jail space, says the Seattle Times. The county’s two jails have seen an overall drop in inmate numbers over the past decade even as seven cities are joining to build a new jail to make sure they will have somewhere to send their prisoners.
Officials say the new cells will be needed sometime in the future. For now, the county jails are competing with others for contracts to house inmates from cities, and officials are considering whether to lower their per-prisoner price. An auditor said King County stands to lose millions of dollars a year if cities move their prisoners elsewhere and the county fails to reduce costs. The loss could total $9 million to $15 million in jail fees. The county hasn’t done enough to reduce costs, said an audit. While jail costs went up 10 percent between 2007 and 2009, the decline in inmate numbers pushed up the cost per prisoner 24.6 percent.