WENATCHEE — Bed-day rates in Washington state jails are on the rise. It’s a trend that the Chelan County Regional Justice Center would like to follow.
Bed-day rates are what county jails charge law enforcement agencies or cities per day for inmates they book into their facilities. In 2017, the average daily bed-day rate for county jails, plus two regional jail centers, was $76.73 a day, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs data. In 2018 that number increased to $87.48.
Some of the more noticeable increases between county jails were Adams County, which jumped from $31 in 2017 to $65 in 2018, and Pacific County, which increased from $38 in 2017 to $65 in 2018.
The rate average also increased because several counties reported their bed-day rates in 2018 that did not do so in 2017, according to the data. That includes King County, which has a $189 bed-day rate.
Chelan County’s jail would like to increase its bed-day rate, which is currently $96 a day, Jail Director Bill Larson said. The jail’s budget is paid for by contracts it signs with cities and Chelan County for bed-day rates, plus a $25 processing fee.
“Where does the money come from to fix an elevator and enhance a camera system and start making repairs to this aged facility and be able to establish a staffing model that meets our needs?” Larson asked.
In 2018, though, the jail’s budget contained a $280,000 hole. The Chelan County Commission was forced to pay for the deficit using its general fund.
The jail hopes to end the need for assistance from the county, he said. It is doing its best to cut costs including $500,000 a year in overtime.
The jail is looking into its day rates, though, and plans to propose an increase, Larson said. Next week he will send out letters to meet with government agencies that use the jail. By July the jail will likely have finished calculating an updated amount.
Jail staff also plan to attend a conference by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs next week, he said. He would like to ask other jails what resources they rely on for revenue.
“We sort of have to treat this like a business,” Larson said. “But, oh my God, it’s not a business. It is a public service. But in order to operate, we have to generate some funding.”
Larson became the interim jail director in June 2018. He has since done an analysis of the jail and issued a business proposal in October to the Chelan County Commission.
The business proposal outlined several problems at the jail including staffing shortages, safety and health issues.