State parole policy changes deliver $9.4 million hit to county jails
September 3, 2012
NEW — 6 a.m. Sept. 3, 2012
Recent changes in state policy mean fewer inmates in King County jails — and $9.4 million less for local jails year due to fewer bookings from the state Department of Corrections.
King County officials said the $9.4 million drop contributes to a projected $13 million shortfall next year in revenues to support operations at the King County Jail in Seattle and the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. The shortfall could lead officials to eliminate 40 or more positions in the proposed 2013 jails budget.
The state corrections agency contracts with the county to house thousands of felons released from prison, and then violated their conditions of release. The so-called “DOC violators” go back to jail to await administrative hearings. Since 2008, King County booked, on average, 6,844 inmates per year, and held about 330 per day.
Revenue from contracts with other jurisdictions helps support fixed costs at the King County Jail and the Maleng Regional Justice Center.
Under the “swift and certain” law enacted by the Legislature in April, the punishment happens more quickly, resulting in much shorter jail stays and reduced usage of local jails.
“The state’s latest policy change — the new ‘swift and certain’ program to address parole violators — certainly seems to be promising public policy, but the loss of nearly $10 million in expected state revenues in one year is simply too much for us to make up through savings or efficiencies,” Claudia Balducci, county Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention Director, said in a statement.
The department’s budget proposal may call for 40 or more position reductions next year; 20 positions are vacant or expected to be vacant by year’s end. Balducci said she should be able to manage staffing to minimize the need for layoffs.
The final number is expected in the 2013 budget proposal King County Executive Dow Constantine delivers to the King County Council soon.
The department has the equivalent of 939.5 full-time positions — including 540.5 corrections officers — and a budget of $130.2 million
Balducci said the jails is implementing numerous savings and efficiencies, including some suggested by employees, to help to avoid potential layoffs. The savings include staffing changes to reduce the cost impact of inmates with severe and more expensive needs, such as psychiatric conditions; saving $14,000 a year by replacing bottled water with filtered water; and delaying purchases if possible.