UPDATE: The ARC is now scheduled for opening June/July 2013
On October 30, 2012, about twenty intrepid TCBA members went on a tour of the new Accountability and Restitution Center (ARC) which will replace the existing Thurston County Jail in early 2013. The existing jail has been plagued with space and functionality issues for many years. The ARC (not “the Rock”) is a 110,000 thousand square foot facility with room for many more services aimed at rehabilitating inmates and reducing recidivism.
Our existing jail was based on an older style of supervision relying largely on security surveillance technology; in the old jail, there are 14 separate housing areas ranging in capacity from 4 to 56 inmates. The new ARC is designed under a model based on direct inmate supervision. Physically, there are four dormitory style units capable of holding 68 inmates each; these four dormitories will hold the majority of the inmates. Each of these four dormitories will be supervised 24 hours a day by a single deputy per dorm. When I heard this, my first thought was that could be a scary situation for that single deputy. But after I talked to several of the officers at the jail, I was reassured that this system of supervision has been shown to be very effective in reducing inmate-on-inmate assaults and inmate-on-officer assaults.
The theory behind this style of direct supervision is that having a deputy present in the dorms with the inmates helps maintain safety by having the deputy be able to watch and interact with the inmates continuously. In a more traditional jail model (like our existing jail) inmates spend a lot of time in their cells with other inmates with no direct supervision. As many of us know, this traditional system leads to inmates trying to assert dominance over their cells (and fellow inmates) and can lead to assaults (on inmates and deputies) and other criminal behavior. At the ARC, there is also a central control unit that uses cameras to monitor all of the activity in the facility (and call for back-up if needed). The ARC will also offer a large number of services to inmates to address their issues to hopefully reduce recidivism.
The officers at the jail I spoke with stated that this style of housing inmates has been very successful in other jurisdictions. Basically, the inmates will be treated with respect; in return, they will be expected to serve their jail sentences in a respectful, productive manner. If the inmates fail to do this, they can be transferred to the maximum security unit and have far fewer options. Obviously, inmates that are “high-risk” for violence will be housed in the maximum security unit to prevent them from hurting other inmates or deputies. The maximum security unit can hold up to 118 more inmates.
For lower-risk inmates, the ARC will be maintaining and expanding the other alternative options to traditional confinement such as work release, electronic home monitoring and other programs addressing the needs of veterans, the mentally ill, the chemically dependent, and domestic violence offenders.
The ARC has a large open booking area that will be able to accommodate the large influx of inmates that travel through Thurston County to other jurisdictions in a safe and efficient manner. The ARC has a large on-site medical clinic and a state-of-the-art industrial kitchen that will be capable of generating 100,000 meals per month.
The ARC is located at 3491 Ferguson Street NW so all of the courts are currently in the process of working out procedures to have inmates appear for many hearings through the use of video (this will help reduce the cost and safety issues of transporting inmates physically to the courthouse). The ARC is currently equipped with 4 video court rooms and 8 attorney visitation rooms.
I was very impressed with the facility and by the enthusiasm of the officers who will be working in the ARC . These officers don’t receive enough credit in my opinion; they work in difficult conditions with a difficult population but truly care about our community and try to make a daily difference by interacting with the inmates in a fair, respectful, and firm manner. I believe the new ARC will make their jobs easier. I heartily encourage all of you to visit the ARC. If members are interested, I would be happy to set up another tour.