What is the definition of an overcrowded jail?
In 1984, Whatcom County opened the current downtown jail. It was designed to hold 148 people, and adequately address Whatcom County’s jail needs through 2009. Unfortunately, the jail population grew much faster than anyone anticipated throughout the United States and here in our county the overcrowding continued to grow over the years. Overcrowding eventually caused the jail to turn some offender groups away and delay some court orders to arrest and hold people. Any available space was converts to jail inmate housing so offenders could be held. In 2006, the County opened a new, temporary, minimum security jail in the Irongate area of Bellingham, known as the Work Center. The Work Center was built to hold up to 150 inmates. As a minimum security jail only certain types of inmates can be housed there.

The 2004 voter approved 0.01% sales tax increase helped fund the construction of the Work Center and continues to partially support the operations. The Work Center has helped take some of the pressure off of the main jail, but the inmate population continues to grow. There was a small dip in the inmate population between 2010 and 2012, but it has started to go up again.

Show All Answers

1. Why do we need a new jail?
2. Why is overcrowding a problem?
3. What is the definition of an overcrowded jail?
4. What is the cause of the overcrowding?
5. What strategies have been used to address the overcrowding?