Overcrowding at Skagit County Jail becoming public safety problem


MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - Criminals who should be heading to jail are heading home instead because of overcrowding at the Skagit County Jail.

 The Skagit County sheriff said the jail in Mount Vernon is at twice its capacity.

 Currently, it’s turning away non-violent offenders, but that could change. 

 Tammy Vega, a disabled mother who tried to turn herself in twice to serve a 20-day sentence on a gun charge, found herself waiting for hours to be booked.

 “You come here and you're waiting.  Two hours I've been waiting to be booked, and I'm still not booked,” said Vega.

 There are 1,300 outstanding felony warrants in the county and another 5,700 misdemeanor warrants, many of which are for repeat offenders.

 But Sheriff Will Reichert admitted it takes more than one warrant to go to the county’s overcrowded jail.

 "It usually takes five before you're going to get inside our jail.  We're upping that to seven,” said Reichert.

 "Are there people who should be in jail who are not?” asked KIRO 7 reporter Lee Stoll.

 “Absolutely,” said Reichert.

 Reichert said the only group left is dangerous felons.

   "We're getting to the point where we may have to start releasing some of those people that we really don't want to let loose,” said Reichert.

 County leaders spent years looking at how to solve the population problem.

 About two dozen inmates are being kept in Snohomish County at a cost of $650,000 a year. 

 A review board voted in January that a new jail is the best choice.

 “We just are lacking the space and it keeps upping the standard of who we can keep,” said Reichert.

 The cost of a new facility is $55 million. 

 The county hopes to put a three-tenths percent sales tax on the ballot in August.