On August 7, 2019, the Whatcom County Council unanimously approved Resolution 2019-036, adopting a statement of public health, safety, and justice facility planning principles for Whatcom County. The resolution identifies a need to plan for a criminal justice system that is built to address the root causes of incarceration and designed with rehabilitation as the goal. It acknowledges a desire to prioritize community-based preventative services, maximize successful re-entry, and minimize recidivism. It identifies a need to focus on reducing demand for jail by investing in behavioral health services. Additionally, the County Council identified a desire for a potential ballot initiative.
On September 10, 2019, Councilmember Barry Buchanan, the Executive's Office, the Sheriff and the Health Department presented to the Council Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee a further developed task list to complete a behavioral health and criminal justice needs assessment and design concepts for a new facility, all with broad participation from the public. Exhibit A will serve as a draft scope of work to procure professional services.
On December 3, 2019, the Whatcom County Council approved Resolution 2019-063 establishing a Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) for the Public Health, Safety and Justice Facility Needs Assessment. Council later amended the SAC membership to include 20 citizen members, making the SAC a total of 36 members (Resolution 2020-009).
On February 11, 2020, the Whatcom County Council authorized a contract for consultant services to complete the Public Health, Safety, and Justice Needs Assessment (AB2020-055). Click here to view a presentation from HOK, the contracted firm that will lead an interdisciplinary team of professionals with expertise in behavior health, criminal justice, facility design, and public outreach as well work closely with stakeholders to complete the needs assessment.
On March 25, 2020, the project team announced to SAC members a pause in the project until mid-May due to the limitations to gathering resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency. A June 23, 2020 memo to SAC members from Executive Sidhu, Sheriff Elfo, Councilmember Buchanan, and Prosecutor Richey extended the pause on the project through the end of the year.
On September 28, 2021, the Council approved a motion to re-engage the Stakeholder Advisory Committee members and re-affirm the principles in the Resolution 2019-036. The first Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting was held on January 20, 2022. On April 26, 2022, Council adopted Resolution 2022-021 amending the membership of the SAC to include one representative from the Prosecutor's Office and the Public Defender's Office..
More information about the activities of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee throughout 2022 is available here.