King County and the city of Seattle have reached an "agreement in principle" to house city misdemeanor defendants in the King County Jail in downtown Seattle through 2030, rather than transferring them to a new, 800-bed facility in Des Moines (known as the South Correctional Entity, or SCORE) or building a new jail in Seattle. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Mike McGinn, along with city council member Tim Burgess and King County Council member Bob Ferguson, announced the agreement at a press conference this morning.

The agreement, which goes through 2030, would cap the number of Seattle inmates in King County jail at 228 next year, and the city would pay for a minimum of 175 beds regardless of how many inmates are using them; those numbers would rise steadily through 2030.

Burgess said the agreement means the city will not have to consider building a new jail "for at least 20 years," and credited Constantine for "chang[ing] the conversation about jail services" when he came in to office last year.

The agreement will require the city to pay the county $11 million a year, McGinn said, which represents "a savings of $2 million a year over the other options we had."

Lisa Daaugard, director of the Defender Association, which provides public defenders to misdemeanor clients, said that without the agreement, "It could have been a different story, of people from Seattle, charged in Seattle, being held in a facility in Des Moines...far from their families, far from their lawyers, far from their jobs, while there are empty jail beds" in downtown Seattle. On average, Daugaard said, public defenders have 380 cases a year, or a case and a half for every work day. Moving those defendants out of Seattle, where the Defender Association is located, "would have taken a challenging situation and made it into an impossible one."
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