A rendering of the planned Community Justice Center in Lynnwood. (City of Lynnwood)

A rendering of the planned Community Justice Center in Lynnwood. (City of Lynnwood)

Lynnwood to send inmates to Kirkland while new jail is built

Meanwhile, the Community Justice Center’s planned completion date has been pushed back to April 2024.

LYNNWOOD — The City Council approved an agreement Monday to send the city’s incarcerated population to Kirkland as a new jail is built.

It will cost an estimated $574,000 per year.

The city broke ground on the controversial Community Justice Center in late October. The $69 million center, which will include a new jail, police department and misdemeanor court, is to be completed in October 2023.

While the new jail is being built, the old one is closed. That leads to the question of where Lynnwood will house people it arrests on misdemeanors for the two-plus years until the center is finished.

The city has contracts with the Snohomish County Jail in Everett and the South Correctional Entity in Des Moines, known as SCORE, about 30 miles away. The agreement with the jail in Des Moines was for four beds, according to the contract.

Lynnwood also signed a contract with Kirkland for two beds per day in its jail at a cost of $131 each. The flat fee drew Lynnwood officials to the Eastside facility; other jails tack on additional fees. For example, the Des Moines jail has additional booking fees and surcharges for people with medical needs.

The original agreement with Kirkland was projected to cost less than $100,000.

The new one, approved in a 5-2 vote Tuesday night, would up that to the $574,000 figure for up to 12 beds per day. Council President George Hurst was quick to note this move would be more “cost-effective.”

“Although it’s an increase in money, it’s going to be offset by the savings of not going to the Snohomish County Jail or the SCORE facility,” Hurst told his council colleagues Monday.

Councilmembers Shirley Sutton and Joshua Binda voted against the agreement.

Kirkland’s jail is about 12 miles from Lynnwood’s old facility. The new justice center will be in the 19300 block of 44th Avenue West.

After a woman died by suicide in July at the old jail, and following two months of trenchant criticism, the Lynnwood City Council approved a more than $56 million construction contract for the center in September in a 6-1 vote. It’ll have 84 beds, down from the 120 originally planned. The old jail had 46 beds. Before the COVID-19 pandemic diminished capacity, the jail was full or almost full most of the time, city officials have said. Over the summer, there were days you could count on one hand the number of people housed there.

The initial proposal for the center was reevaluated after Tirhas Tesfatsion’s death. The Kirkland Police Department conducted the investigation into her death.

A task force developed a plan to add a mental health wing to the Community Justice Center, including behavioral health urgent care, a crisis stabilization unit and a social services hub.

The center’s original price tag, including construction, inspections and other costs, was $64 million. But bids to build it came in high. The price jumped to $69 million. The vast majority of that money comes from bonds; the rest is from an existing criminal justice sales tax. City officials have said new taxes won’t be needed to fund the new facility.

As Kirkland does now, Lynnwood plans to make money from the jail by contracting beds to nearby cities. One bed for a day would cost another city $175. The new facility would bring in under $1.1 million annually, the city finance director told the council last year. Lynnwood would have made over $1.8 million under the original proposal for the jail.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the current completion projection for the Community Justice Center. It is slated to be done October 2023.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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