Hoquiam jail reopens

The Hoquiam City Jail re-opened Monday for the first time in more than a decade, using new funding from a state Department of Corrections program.

The city closed the jail in 2002 due to budget cuts. Since then, Hoquiam criminals have been sent to the Grays Harbor County Jail or the Forks City Jail, costing the city between $45 and $70 per inmate each day.

Now, the state Department of Corrections will pay the Hoquiam Police Department $80 per prisoner per day as part of Swift and Certain, a state Department of Corrections program requiring felons who have violated their probation to serve short sentences, usually three to 30 days. If, for instance, a felon fails a drug test, it could mean the probation is revoked. This program would give that person a short jail stay and keep them in their own community and near their counselor.

The jail will hold local probation offenders, along with inmates picked up by Hoquiam Police Department.

The arrangement means the state’s contributions will pay most of the jail’s overhead and Hoquiam police can piggyback, using some of the space to house the people they pick up, usually for relatively minor crimes.

Jail operation costs should be mostly covered by the state program, said Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers. Running the facility should cost about $500,000 per year, with about $250,000 of the budget going toward salaries of five corrections officers, officials expect. The Department of Corrections estimates the jail will keep an average of 17 inmates per day, giving the police department $496,400 in revenue each year.

“We’re hoping to have 12 Department of Corrections inmates here each day,” Myers said. “That way we’ll get the revenue we need to keep going and have room for the people we pick up.”

Sandy Mullins, director of the Office of Executive Policy for the state Department of Corrections, said re-opening the jail isn’t just about saving money — it’s about creating a safer community. She said transporting inmates to other facilities can be dangerous, as it increases the risk of escape.

“We want to avoid transporting as much as possible,” Mullins said. “Not only is it dangerous, but it’s time that our police officers aren’t out on the street.”

Mayor Jack Durney agreed.

“It’s the guys on the street that keep us safe,” Durney said. “[Opening the jail] gives them more support and the tools that they need to do their job correctly.”

Re-opening the jail will also alleviate some of the pressure on other jails in Grays Harbor County, Myers said. The Grays Harbor County Jail and the Aberdeen City Jail are usually full and can’t accommodate Hoquiam offenders.

“It’s just the nature of our poor economy,” Myers said. “People are out doing things they shouldn’t be.”