August 21, 2009 · Updated 10:46 AM
Kitsap County’s decision to charge more to house prisoners in the county jail has prompted three local municipalities to ship their long-term prisoners elsewhere for their incarceration, adding further to the budget woes facing the county.
“We can get a better deal from Forks,” said Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend. “That makes a hell of a difference.”
A significant percentage of the county’s current shortfall is lost revenue from the jail, a total that includes $400,000 from Bremerton alone, according to Administrative Services Director Shaun Gabriel.
This reflects Bremerton’s decision to, like Port Orchard, relocate long-term (one month or more) inmates from Kitsap County to a jail in Forks.
The Kitsap County jail raised its per-day rates from $67 to $80 in January.
Bremerton soon struck a deal with Forks for $45 a day.
That rate has now increased to $65 per day, but this is enough of a difference to motivate Port Orchard to take advantage of that deal for its own long-term prisoners.
Bainbridge Island is now sending its long-term prisoners to Clallam County, according to department spokesperson Sue Shultz. Poulsbo sends prisoners to either Forks or Kitsap County depending on their needs, according to city spokesperson Carly Michelson.
“Sending the longer-term prisoners to Forks is more cost effective for us,” said Port Orchard Court Administrator Debbie Hunt. “This is only for longer-term prisoners. We will still use the Kitsap County Jail for the overnight stays.”
Hunt estimates Port Orchard will send about two prisoners per month to Forks.
The majority of the cases, short-term prisoners, will still be housed in the Kitsap County Jail.
When a prisoner is sent to Forks, Port Orchard police officers will drive them to the Hood Canal Bridge and transfer them to an officer from the Forks Police Department.
“It doesn’t cost us any extra to transport them, aside from the officer’s time and the gas to the bridge,” Hunt said.
The Sheriff’s office responded with a statement that it “is not in business to operate the jail on a for profit basis in order to increase the revenue for the county’s general fund. We hope to offset the cost of operating the jail by charging an appropriate daily bed rate.”
In the statement Sheriff Steve Boyer said "all government agencies are financially challenged during these tough economic times. We work with our partner agencies to best meet community public safety requirements.”