Pierce County looking to get inmate income back


by John Langeler / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @jlangelerKING5


Posted on June 8, 2013 at 11:21 PM

Updated Sunday, Jun 9 at 10:52 AM

Having already laid off staff and shut down part of its jail, Pierce County is conducting an audit that could help determine how to get nearby cities to change their mind and bring lesser crime offenders to the downtown facility.

Earlier this year, Tacoma decided to send those arrested for misdemeanors to Fife’s jail, rather than the Pierce County Jail.  It’s a decision that has saved the city money, but cost Pierce County greatly.

“So far, it’s been really good,” said Tacoma councilman Joe Lonergan, who sits on the public safety committee, “As with anything, you always have some wrinkles to iron out.  There are a lot more goods than bads.”

Pierce County charges cities $225 booking fee for misdemeanant inmates, and $92-a-day to hold them after that.  The City of Fife’s jail charges only a $20 booking fee and $65 to hold inmates.

Because of the cost difference, Tacoma Police has sent 100 more misdemeanant inmates to Fife than to Pierce County’s jail.

“The impact has been signifigant,” said Pierce County Councilman Stan Flemming.  Short $4.2 million, the county recently announced 20 jail employees will be laid off and two units will be shutdown.

But Flemming said Saturday the county isn’t giving up on that “business”, and the audit currently underway could help get those inmates and staff members back.

“The goal of the county as a whole is ensuring we are not just meeting the competition,” Flemming said, “Bit beating the competition.”

Flemming added Pierce County has tried several times to speak with the City of Tacoma on this issue in recent months.  None of those letters or calls have been returned, he said.

The audit will be complete in September.