The efforts to reopen the Hoquiam City Jail for daily use after 10 years of dormancy are going smoothly, Hoquiam Police Department officials said.
In preparation for the reopening, the Hoquiam department has increased bed space at the jail, installed new video cameras, put in a new pass-code system for jail security and organized a new inmate property processing center, among other renovations. In September, the department begins what Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said is the most important part of reopening the jail; hiring the police services officers that will handle the inmates.
“Basically we are doing the physical improvements now. We are trying to absorb that within the existing budget which goes through the end of the year,” Myers said.
To re-open the jail, the department needs to hire four police services officers. One officer, a formerly retired police sergeant, is already on staff, giving the department a total of five officers to man the jail. Myers said he hopes to find candidates with backgrounds in criminal justice, but that it isn’t required. What is required, along with the acumen to work in a corrections environment, are “acute” computer skills and good customer service skills. Applications are due by Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. Applications and other requirements can be found at http://www.cityofhoquiam.com/.
In August, the City of Hoquiam signed a contract with the state Department of Corrections to house parole-violating inmates, who, under a new statewide program called “Swift and Certain,” must now serve mandatory jail time.
Under the new state probation model, felons on probation would have to serve between three and 30 days in jail if arrested for any probation violation.
A report prepared by Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers states that in Grays Harbor County, 227 of 297 state supervised felons (76 percent) meet the criteria of the program if they violate their parole.
After the renovations in Hoquiam are complete, it will cost the department at least $534,000 a year to run the jail. The state will reimburse the city $80 per inmate, per day. Any extra funds from running the jail will be deposited into the city’s general fund. Any shortage of funds will have to be made up for by the department itself.
Myers said a potential drop in the number of state inmates in the future was a “huge concern” in signing the agreement, but added that historically there has been a need for more beds to house inmates. State Department of Corrections officials have spoken to Myers about the numbers, he said.
“They have struggled for jail space for the last 15 years. So even if Swift and Certain were to go away or be replaced by some other probation model, DOC is confident that they will have a need for jail space,” Myers said. “But there are no guarantees. … There’s no mincing words that we are dependent on the contract to offset our expenses,” Myers said
Myers estimated that once the jail is open, every day they would house an average of 17 parole offenders from the county, eight offenders from the City of Hoquiam and four offenders from Pacific County. The program allows, Myers said, to monitor all paroles in the area more closely.
The budget request has not yet gone to the mayor for approval. Myers said he expects it to be approved with no problems. Other than warrant sweeps, the jail hasn’t really been used in 10 years, Myers said. The reopening would allow the department office to be open 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Also, when not dealing with the inmates, Police services officers would be able to enter a backlog of data into the department’s computer system and do other administrative duties.
“I think it improves public safety for everyone on Grays Harbor,” Myers said.