Mountlake Terrace City Council hears more about proposed work-release facility near Edmonds border

Location of proposed work release site

The Mountlake Terrace City Council at its Aug. 12 work/study session was updated on the possibility of a work-release site being located in the city, which is located on the border of Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds.

Mark Kucza, who is a senior administrator with the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and project lead for the work-release expansion project, said that a site identified in Mountlake Terrace for the possible location of a facility was still under evaluation.

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature directed the State Department of Corrections to identify sites for additional work-release facilities in various regions statewide. That process, which was paused last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed earlier this year.

The department is still looking at locations considered underserved or unserved to expand its work-release program throughout the state. The possible site identified is a commercial property that formerly housed the Seabrook Dental Laboratory, located at 7125 224th St. S.W. in Mountlake Terrace. The property is situated along the Interurban Trail on a dead-end street, with vehicular access from 222nd Street Southwest in Edmonds near Ranch 99 Market.

State law requires cities to accommodate “essential public facilities,” such as work-release facilities, and Mountlake Terrace allows this type of facility, with conditions, in the light industrial/office park zone. Other potential Snohomish County location sites in Lynnwood, Everett and Marysville have all been dismissed based on their zoning.

Corrections officials noted that no decisions regarding the local site have been made, stressing that the public process involving a local advisory committee and stakeholder engagement will continue in the meantime. The committee still must review the costs associated with leasing the Mountlake Terrace site, which include any improvements that would be required to renovate, repair, remodel or alter the dilapidated site to make it suitable for a work-release program.

Work-release expansion and existing facilities map.

A final decision on whether to move forward with the site would follow those conversations and pre-application meetings with city staff about conditional requirements. If the project is officially advanced to consideration that process will then require under law a public hearing which includes sending notification to all addresses within a half-mile of the potential site.

Work-release facilities are meant to create a smoother transition back into the community for incarcerated people near their release date. Participating inmates are given the opportunity to engage in paid employment or vocational training programs while still remaining under the department’s supervision at the facility when they are not at their job or other pre-approved activities.

Individuals who are within six months of their earned release date may be eligible to spend their remaining time in a work-release facility, but they are required to meet specific criteria and there must also be available bed space at a facility. Inmates can be deemed ineligible due to misconduct, outstanding legal issues, prior failure or rules violations at work release, victim concerns, an excess or serious pattern of criminal history, and heinous or notorious crime(s).

People incarcerated at work-release facilities must follow all program rules, they are monitored to ensure compliance and must agree to submit to frequent testing for substance abuse. Additionally, residents must continue with any therapy, treatment, programming and classes identified in their individual reentry plan. Failure to abide by the rules may result in sanctions and/or termination from the program.

A work-release facility in Olympia.

There are currently 12 work-release facilities in the state, but none in Snohomish County. Other areas being considered for the expansion include King County, Pierce County and the north central counties region of Chelan, Douglas and Kittitas counties. Most work releases house both males and females. The statewide capacity of the program’s facilities currently allows for 782 residents and it has a waitlist of approximately 1,300 individuals.

Kucza said that applications to the work-release program currently exceed the capacity of its facilities. Addressing community safety concerns he said, “our experience with serious violations is very low,” and noted that the most frequent types of violations involving residents at the facilities are for failed urine tests detecting drug use and breaches of facility rules such as when the use of cell phones was previously restricted.

He added that the DOC has been having discussions about what they might do to help increase the safety profile along the Interurban Trail near the potential site “to allay people’s fears and concerns.” Ideas mentioned included increased lighting and potential video monitoring to help mitigate community worries.

Tony Lindgren, an architectural consultant for the DOC, said that while no conceptual design had yet been drawn up for the site, the structure — which is approximately 7,400 square feet — could likely fit 30-45 beds in the facilities living quarters.

Over the past 50 years of operating its work-release program, the DOC has “forged up our security profiles around how we manage these people, our screening requirements and holding them accountable,” Kucza said. “That’s why there is a waitlist for people to get to work release, because it’s a privileged program and people want to get access to that program and they don’t want to spoil it for themselves.”

He added that participation in the work-release program results in approximately a 3% reduction in the rate of recidivism independent of other intervention programs that help impact that overall rate.

It was noted that while the Mountlake Terrace site appears to meet conditions for zoning and access to public transit, the evaluation is ongoing. If it were selected for a work-release facility, the process of obtaining various permits and renovation efforts could still take up to as long as two years.

“There’s a long road to travel,”Kucza said, adding “we’re not there yet.”

— By Nathan Blackwell

 

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