At long last, offenders kept behind bars in the cramped Thurston County jail are headed to a more modern lockup. Sometime by month’s end, county authorities plan to move incarcerated men and women to the Accountability and Restitution Center that has sat vacant since it was constructed in 2010.
By opening the new facility by the end of August, county Sheriff John Snaza is keeping a promise made in January — when he and county commissioners agreed on budget provisions to open the jail — that the opening would occur by the end of summer.
Taxpayer costs to keep the building ready to go have exceeded $1.6 million since 2011. The Great Recession wiped out revenues the county had once banked on to open the facility on time.
The opening means that Thurston County residents will finally start receiving a tangible return on their $48 million investment.
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Known as the ARC, the jail has 395 inmate beds and 96 more for work release. The old jail at the County Courthouse site will be used as a daytime holding area for inmates making court appearances.
The new facility comes on line at a time there also is talk of moving the Thurston County Courthouse to a new site, off the hillside location where it’s been since the 1970s. Some judges have proposed putting it in downtown Olympia.
Budget considerations may make the courthouse move impractical, but commissioners are expecting a report with details next month. That report initially was due in August.
The county’s crowded and worn jail is already adding to county expenses. Commissioners agreed in 2013 to boost Snaza’s corrections budget by $600,000 and add about 15 officers for improved jail staffing.
In the January agreement they authorized another roughly $400,000 outlay bringing full staffing corrections staffing to a little over 115 positions.
As we said six months ago, credit goes to Commissioners Cathy Wolfe, Sandra Romero and Bud Blake, and Snaza, for finding ways to trust each other. Now another test: making their agreements work.
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