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City Council pauses plan to send Olympia inmates to Yakima over ICE concerns

A Yakima County corrections officer guards offenders from Pierce and King counties returning from the Yakima County jail. Olympia is considering contracting with Yakima County to house its inmates.
A Yakima County corrections officer guards offenders from Pierce and King counties returning from the Yakima County jail. Olympia is considering contracting with Yakima County to house its inmates. Tacoma News Tribune

Olympia City Council members say they want more information about how immigrants will be treated before approving a deal that would send inmates at the city’s jail to Yakima.

The council was scheduled to vote on a contact with Yakima County at its meeting this past week, but the item was pulled from the consent calendar to give members time to study the issue.

Olympia’s 28-bed city jail already sends inmates to Lewis County in an effort to manage its population and keep beds open, said Chandra Brady, Olympia Police Department’s support administrator.

Last year it averaged 12 inmates in Lewis County at any time. Brady said under that contract, Olympia is no longer guaranteed beds in Lewis County and that Yakima could be another option.

But council members worried policies there could conflict with Olympia’s status as a sanctuary city.

In 2016, nearly five weeks after the election of Donald Trump, the council passed a resolution saying the city would not ask about a resident’s immigration status in the course of law enforcement and would refuse requests related to federal immigration policy enforcement.

Just last month, the council passed another resolution calling for legal protections for immigrants under state law.

Council member Jessica Bateman, who led the effort to make Olympia a sanctuary city, said this week she was concerned about the Yakima jail’s history of holding people for Immigration and Custom Enforcement, or ICE.

“I would be opposed to any contract for a jail for our local inmates who could be at risk of being detained by ICE,” she said. “Those are our taxpayer dollars going toward that.”

Another council member, Clark Gilman, raised similar concerns. He said he also wants more information on visitation policies in Yakima and how inmates could communicate with people back in Olympia.

Yakima County last month settled a lawsuit on its use of immigration holds brought by a former inmate who argued that violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. The county agreed to not hold those eligible for release on local charges in response to requests from immigration authorities.

But it will continue to detain people in ICE custody. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the jail will do so if an ICE officer serves an administrative warrant in person or corrections officers receive a warrant signed by a federal judge.

That settlement did not come up in contract negotiations between Yakima County and Olympia officials, said Kellie Purce Braseth, the city’s strategic communications director.

She noted the proposed contract does include language barring Olympia inmates from being held on ICE detainers. It also says inmates “who have or are subject to an ICE warrant signed by a judge will complete their sentence for the City and will be returned to the City for their scheduled release as planned.”

Under the contract, the city would pay $57 to $64 per inmate per day depending on the jail population. It would pay $98 for those with serious medical, mental health or behavioral conditions who require special housing or treatment.

Abby Spegman joined The Olympian in 2017. She covers the city of Olympia and a little bit of everything else. She previously worked at newspapers in Oregon, New Hampshire and Hawaii.


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