Golly Gee Willikers, I know this is Whatcom County, where everyone, just everyone, hates to follow regulations, but wouldn’t it be a good idea for our county sheriff to do so… you know, just to provide an example of how the system is supposed to work, at least in theory? Well then I am really confused by the Sheriff, with the support of the Executive, asserting the sole right and authority to determine a reduction in services, without any real notice to the affected municipalities. (In legal terms, this is known as a “shake down.” My Latin is not great so I can not tell you the root verb.)
Could someone, besides myself, look at Whatcom County Code 1.28.100 pertaining to overcrowding? I mean, that is the issue here, is it not? Because under this statute, he most clearly does not have independent authority. For state prisoners, he must confer with the state. For federal prisoners, he must confer with the federal government and for local prisoners, he must confer with the presiding judge of the superior court. And there are even guidelines for when he can, and indeed, must, determine that a condition of overcrowding occurs. As best as I can tell, this happened years ago, without the Sheriff doing anything….until now, when the nice, big, shiny jail and all its acres of filled in wetlands are being threatened by those liberals in Bellingham.
So why is our fine Sheriff taking this action? It beats me. I asked this very question before the elections and the Executive told me he would get back to me and he never did. And Elfo told Barbara Brenner that he would get back to her, and as far as I know, he never did. Barbara told me that Elfo was a very busy man, but since he had a law degree, we know that he would never, ever violate the law.
But the part that I really do not get is the Bellingham City Attorney, who has been working on this matter to protect Bellingham’s interest. How come he has not been concerned about this statute?
I am going to copy the code section so you guys can see what you think.
A. No prisoner shall be required to sleep directly on the floor for any length of time, or on a mattress on the floor in excess of one 72-hour period, unless there are reasonable grounds to believe that such provisions are necessary to prevent the prisoner from damaging property, inflicting bodily harm to himself or others, or substantially compromising the security of the jail.
B. Existing Jails. The chief law enforcement officer or his designee shall propose a maximum capacity for each detention or correctional facility within his or her jurisdiction. This capacity shall reflect a judgment as to the maximum number of prisoners who may be housed within the facility in a humane fashion.
C. Overcrowding. The maximum capacity may be exceeded to the extent that the average daily population for any calendar month does not exceed the established maximum capacity.
D. Any report of conditions of overcrowding required under this section shall be considered as a notice of an emergency suspension of standards.
E. The chief law enforcement officer or his designee shall establish, with the cooperation of the presiding judge of the superior court, a procedure for release of prisoners before the end of their term or the transfer to other approved facilities when overcrowding occurs as defined in this chapter.
F. In the event of overcrowding caused in part by the existence of state prisoners, the chief law enforcement officer or his designee shall contact the state department of corrections in an effort to have such prisoners removed.
G. In the event of overcrowding caused in part by the existence of federal prisoners, the chief law enforcement officer or his designee shall contact the appropriate federal agency in an effort to have such prisoners removed. (Ord. 87-85 (part)).