Sheriff candidate Chadwick favors property to double suggested jail size in future / Noisy Waters Northwest

April 24, 2023 Dena Jensen

Here’s something to be aware of. The current Whatcom County Undersheriff, Doug Chadwick, who also is one of the candidates running to replace Bill Elfo as Sheriff in the November 2023 election, indicated that he wants to ensure that the County will be able to double the size of a proposed new jail in the years ahead and favors building on a property that would accommodate the size of a horizontal design, i.e. the property purchased for a jail in Ferndale years ago.

Chadwick was in attendance at a special Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force (IPRTF) meeting on March 30, 2023 ( ), which was a workshop focused on considering recommendations regarding building a new jail and accessory services.

At the meeting, Whatcom County Deputy Executive Tyler Schroeder had sought to gain support for a 500+ bed jail based on a 2013 assessment by the design group, DLR. For context, the IPRTF began meeting in 2015, so the results of their past actions or anticipated results of future ones would not be reflected in that assessment. 

Deputy Executive Schroeder asked the question:

“What more information would we need – this is just a theoretical question – what more information would we need to make the recommendation to the County Council that the facility should be sized approximately five hundred beds with 32 medical beds associated with it? – which would be pretty consistent with information that was done in 2013, and would carry out a range that could be planned for and refined as we move forward.”

There was a lot of discussion from all members of the task force during the two-hour meeting related to the needs and recommendations for a jail facility that had been made during the County’s most recent needs assessment process. 

Undersheriff Chadwick commented one time at the beginning of the last half hour of the meeting and here are his remarks (

Undersheriff Chadwick: “Yeah, I think, just a reminder when, we’re talking about building an adequately sized jail for what we need now. Projecting into the future, you know, we need to take into consideration the fact that property is going to be a consideration. So we don’t want to be going through this exercise again 25, 30, 35 years down the road. So, you know, build an adequately sized, safe jail. You know, it sounds like, based on the trauma-informed design, horizontal is best, so having a property that, you know, allows us to build that now, but also have adequate space, so we that can, you know, maybe do a mirror image of that down the road if that becomes necessary. So.”

Holly O’Neil (meeting facilitator): “A mirror of that? Say more what you mean.”

Undersheriff Chadwick: “Again, if you wanted to – if you needed to increase capacity, you could – you already have a model and a plan, you just – you just simply build another – a mirror image of that model – so, expanding the capacity that way.”

Jail expansion proponents usually use the more subtle suggestion of adding additional pods (housing up to 60 jail residents in each), as needed. Undersheriff Chadwick’s proposal would simply take the jail size and double it in one swoop.  

The reference by Chadwick of trauma-informed design related to a horizontal facility (one-story instead of multi-story) was basically gratuitous. In a number of internet searches on trauma-informed design – in facilities in general, and specifically for jails – none of the results I encountered, let alone a preponderance of them, identify that structures must be one level in order bring in the desired elements of warmth, brightness, ecology, freedom, and advancement.

Examples below:,inmates%20to%20pursue%20redemption%20and%20experience%20personal%20transformation