Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

Releasing Suspects To Avoid Overcrowding Poses Threat, Seattle Mayor Says

King County Jail in downtown Seattle.
King County Photo

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is protesting a new King County policy to release more felony suspects after booking them. King County says it’s a budget decision involving nonviolent offenders. The mayor says it’s a threat to public safety.


Next month, King County is implementing a new policy to release suspects in felony drug and property crimes after booking them. It’s a way to avoid projected increases in the jail population, according to county spokesman Chad Lewis. He says the county has enough jail beds, but doesn’t have the money to staff them.

On Friday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sent a letter to the county protesting the change, saying it undermines efforts to fight crime and poses a risk to public safety.

William Hayes heads the King County Jail. He responds that the arresting officer can check a box asking that the suspect remain in custody.

Hayes: “I think you have to consider, we’re not just booking them, fingerprinting them, taking their picture and kicking them out the door. There’s a process in place to gather as much information about the individual and ensure that they are provided a court date at a later time.”

The plan would eliminate judicial review before the suspect can be eligible for release.

Jim Rogers is the chief criminal judge on King County Superior Court. He says the policy was presented as a budget decision and it’s not one that judges agreed with.

But he says King County already releases “a tremendous number” of pre-trial defendants and looks for alternatives to jail, so it’s not clear what effect this policy will have on jail budgets or crime rates. 

Year started with KUOW: 2005