VANCOUVER, Wash. — Leaders in Clark County, Wash., are weighing three different plans to address overcrowding, deferred maintenance and outdated security systems at the county’s jail in Vancouver. The increasingly crowded jail must undergo significant security improvements and upgrades to ensure inmate and staff safety, accommodate growth and support the county’s new re-entry program. The county currently houses inmates in its indirect supervision Main Jail, located at the Clark County Law Enforcement Center, and the minimum-security facility that uses direct supervision Jail Work Center.
County leaders as well as representatives from the Washington State Patrol and the Vancouver Police Department have been working with consultants from the Seattle and Portland, Ore., offices of DLR Group since early 2016 to conduct a feasibility study of the existing county’s law enforcement center. The firm published its findings in March, and county leaders gathered on April 11 for a work session to discuss renovation and new construction plans ranging in cost from $63 million to $284 million. The DLR Group team ultimately determined that the jail must nearly triple in size from 124,318 square feet to 366,564 square feet to meet current correctional standards. This would also include increasing inmate capacity from 793 beds to as many as 1,260 within the next two decades.
DLR Group proposed a renovation-based scenario that would cost between $63 million and $67 million (but do little to address overcrowding) as well as a construction-heavy plan that would give the county new administrative and inmate housing facilities. The construction plan would increase capacity to meet projected needs and is currently slated to cost between $253 million and $268 million.
A third and potentially more expensive plan could cost the county up to $284 million, but would provide all the space benefits of the slightly less expensive construction plan while also offering a more efficient layout and increasing safety. If selected, the third option would boost inmate bed space to 1,028 within the next five years. Other necessary upgrades would be completed in phases, which could bring the price tag down if construction costs remain steady. The plan would also allow for future expansion and flexibility.
Currently, the county’s lack of space is inhibiting the expansion of its inmate re-entry program. Speaking at the work session, Clark County Corrections Chief Ric Bishop noted that more than two-dozen local organizations have expressed interest in working with inmates re-entering the community, as reported by The Columbian, but the county currently lacks space to accommodate them.