County jail reforms forcing changes for city lock-ups

MARYSVILLE — Stricter booking policies at the Snohomish County Jail are having a spillover effect on city jails operated by the Lynnwood and Marysville police departments.

Both cities have signed emergency contracts in recent weeks with a jail in south King County that’s equipped to house inmates with serious medical issues or mental illness.

The Snohomish County Jail in fall 2013 began limiting bookings for high-risk inmates, particularly those with misdemeanor nonviolent offenses, and when the jail is closer to capacity.

The changes were part of an overhaul by Sheriff Ty Trenary. He’s trying to address safety concerns and reduce overcrowding at the jail.

“I respect the tough decisions that the cities are facing, because these are the same issues we’ve been struggling with as well,” Trenary said. “In the long run, our goals are the same, to provide a safe environment for both inmates and staff in our county’s correctional facilities.”

The Marysville jail now is keeping about four inmates a day at the South Correctional Entity or “SCORE” in Des Moines, said Marysville police Cmdr. Wendy Wade, who oversees the city jail operations.

Marysville is paying about $135 a day per inmate, not counting medical or psychological bills. That’s compared to the $65 a day the county has been charging.

The Marysville jail can hold 57 inmates at maximum capacity, including six spots for women.

“Our jail is not a direct supervision jail,” Wade said. “If it’s an inmate who needs direct supervision or protective custody, we can’t keep them here.”

The city jails are used to house misdemeanor offenders who are awaiting court hearings or serving time after sentencing. City and county jails around the state have contracts that allow them to share space depending on population needs.

Lynnwood’s emergency contract with SCORE is set to expire later this month, said Cmdr. Jim Nelson, who oversees city jail operations.

“Really it was needed,” Nelson said. “(The county jail) put in place more booking restrictions, both population-based and based on the needs of the inmate, so we needed alternatives for our jail for those inmates we’re not equipped to house. The SCORE jail has more medical facilities.”

The City Council is expected to consider extending the temporary contract, likely for a year, he said.

The Lynnwood jail averages about 40 inmates at a time, with most staying about two weeks.

Lynnwood also has an arrangement so inmates at SCORE can attend their Lynnwood Municipal Court hearings via a video link. Marysville is working to set up a similar video system, so officers don’t have to pick up inmates at SCORE and bring them back for hearings, Wade said.

Lynnwood primarily holds inmates booked by its city police officers. The situation is similar in Marysville, which also contracts to hold inmates for Lake Stevens, Arlington and local tribal police departments.

Trenary’s changes at the jail began in 2013, when federal corrections experts were invited to review operations and make recommendations. The assessment came amid a series of nine inmate deaths at the jail since 2010, the most recent on Jan. 13. In some of the deaths, attorneys have alleged that inmates were denied basic medical care.

The county faces millions of dollars in legal claims from the deaths, including a $10 million claim involving the 2012 death of Michael Saffioti, 22.

Saffioti was booked by Lynnwood for a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. The city jail didn’t have a medical unit to handle his severe food allergies and respiratory problems, so he was taken to the county jail.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

City jail facts:

Lynnwood City Jail Capacity: 46 inmates, including 12 women

2013 budget, including salaries: $2.8 million Staffing: 14 custody officers and two custody sergeants

Marysville Detention Center Capacity: 57 inmates, including six women

2013 budget, including salaries: $2.5 million Staffing: 15 custody officers, including two sergeants

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