Posted by: sweeneyblog | June 13, 2013

No Public Information about Jail Planning Work Group

When I was looking into the missing needs analysis for the new jail, I was told that the decision to start drafting designs without first conducting a needs analysis was made by the “Executive Jail Planning Work Group.” He also indicated that this was the group that came up with the number of 660 beds for the first build.

Executive Jail Planning Work Group

Executive Jail Planning Work Group

This group appointed by the County Executive and prominently displayed on the New Jail page on the county website (see right) is the group that would carry forward the recommendations from the Jail Planning Task Force. You can view the roster here, but as you can see, it is almost entirely county employees. I was curious how this group came to the conclusions and decisions they did, so I did a public records request for the minutes of their meetings.

There were none. Zero. No minutes were taken at any of their meetings. I asked for memos or supplemental material. Apparently no one bothered to take notes or email a summery around either. Here is my email back and forth with Mark Burnfield, Public Records Officer for the County.

Compare this with the Jail Planning Task Force, appointed by the County Council to look into this issue. All their minutes are online and publicly available.

I find it quite disturbing that the people involved in this supposedly open process did not bother to keep any public records of their discussions or even their decisions, this does not bode well for going forward with this multi-million dollar project. The public deserves a seat at the table . . . and failing that, at least the ability to know what was discussed. 



  1. It is disturbing to me too. By the way, have you seen Public Safety Now’s website? They are advocating for 600-750 beds. It’s a pretty impressive website for a “grassroots” citizens’ group.

  2. You were all over it last year, and I missed it!

  3. This is such an important issue and decisions are being driven by by paid staff who no doubt see public questioning as delaying something that has been needed for many years. What I don’t get is the “bigger is better” point of view and why the drive to add to county sprawl, rather than using and reusing infrastructure and services that are already in place downtown Bellingham? It is hard for me to believe that a local “drunk tank” close to the hospital won’t stay in town on Dupont street. Why keep it inadequate, dangerous and no stairs? Ferndale has its own “drunk tank” already. This really is a time to look at what we have and improve, rather than quietly taking it to the irreversable as they did in Thurston county.

  4. […] largest public works project in a decade. You would think after four years of secretive meetings, missing minutes and inflated proposals that the Sheriff might welcome some outside perspective. But once again, the […]

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