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Jail Services and Alternatives to Incarceration

This page provides a general overview of how local government across Washington approach corrections, including interlocal contracting and alternatives to incarceration. 


Each county, city, and town is responsible for the prosecution, adjudication, sentencing, and incarceration of misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses committed by adults in their respective jurisdictions, and referred from their respective law enforcement agencies, whether filed under state law or city ordinance, and must carry out these responsibilities through the use of their own courts, staff, and facilities, or by entering into contracts or interlocal agreements to provide these services. Jail overcrowding, costs of prisoner care, drug offenses, and the growing number of mentally ill in the jail system are issues faced by local governments.


  • Ch.72.09 RCW – Describes statutory authority and responsibilities of the State Department of Corrections
  • RCW 72.09.300 – Mandates counties to establish an intergovernmental forum to coordinate city and county law and justice services
  • RCW 70.48 – Mandates standards for city and county jail operations
    • RCW 70.48.071 – Describes standards for operation and adoption by units of local government
    • RCW 70.48.090 – Interlocal contracts for jail services
    • RCW 70.48.095 – Regional jails
    • RCW 70.48.130 – Describes emergency or necessary medical and health care for confined persons, including reimbursement procedures, conditions, and limitations
  • Ch. 70.395 RCW – Prohibits local governments from operating private detention facilities or utilizing a contract with a private detention facility, with minor exceptions
  • RCW 39.34.180 – Authorizes interlocal agreements for providing misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor criminal justice services and establishes binding arbitration to resolve disputes

Examples of Interlocal Jail Agreements

RCW 39.34.180 and RCW 70.48.090 allow a city or county to contract with other cities or counties for jail services via interlocal agreements. Jail services can include the provision of prosecution, adjudication, indigent defense, sentencing, and incarceration services for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses.

Counties Providing Jail Services to Other Counties

Counties Providing Jail Services to Cities

Cities Providing Jail Services to Other Cities

Cities Providing Jail Services to Counties

Jail Agreements with Tribes

Cooperative Jail Facilities

Formed by interlocal agreements between multiple municipalities, cooperative jail facilities provide jail services that are conveniently located at a cost effective rate for the owner cities, which have operational control over the entity, and provide efficiencies for criminal justice partners.

Single County Jail Facilities

  • King County South Correctional Entity (SCORE) – Based in Des Moines; serves the confinement needs of 7 member cities (Auburn, Federal Way, Des Moines, Renton, Tukwila, Burien, and SeaTac) and a number of contract agencies. See also, SCORE Interlocal Agreements for links to associated agency interlocal agreements.
  • Benton County Justice Center – Provides incarceration and alternative program services to all law enforcement jurisdictions within Benton County (Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosse,r and Benton City)
  • Chelan County Juvenile Justice Facility – Provides incarceration and alternative program services to Chelan County, Cashmere, Chelan, Entiat, Leavenworth, and Wenatchee 

Multicounty Jail Facilities

  • Chelan County Regional Justice Center – Serves Chelan and Douglas County
  • Martin Hall Juvenile Center – The facility began operation in November 1997 through an agreement among the Boards of County Commissioners in Whitman, Adams, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Douglas, Asotin, Lincoln, Ferry, and Spokane counties. 

Alternatives to Incarceration

Local governments seek alternatives to jail to reduce jail overcrowding and effect cost savings. Cities and counties can partner with the state Department of Corrections’ work programs or offer their own programs. Alternatives to incarceration encompasses a variety of treatment or punishment and can include reporting to the jail during the day, electronic monitoring, work release, work crews, and/or community service.


Home Detention

RCW 9.94A.734 defines the conditions under which home detention can and cannot be employed.  Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ Correctional Options Services page describes the electronic monitoring equipment available to municipalities. 

Community Service and Work Crew Programs

RCW 9.94A.725 defines the conditions upon which an offender may participate on a work crew, what type of work a work crew might undertake, describes additional services that can be offered under the program, and sets requirements an offender must meet in order to complete a work crew program.  Ch. 36.110 RCW defines and details the Jail Industries Programs (e.g., work crew programs) that municipalities may develop.

City and County Corrections Programs


  • Clark County Corrections – Services include education, electronic home confinement, investigations (pre-trial and post-sentence), pre-trial release, probation services, DUI offender programs, screening for court appointed attorneys, offender services for women, work crew, district court, and specialized courts
  • Cowlitz County Offender Services – Services include work crew, EHM, education, day reporting, counseling, pre-trial release supervision, and community re-entry
  • Kent Jail Programs – Alternatives for nonviolent offenders include out-of-custody, supervised, and unsupervised work crews, EHI, and work release programs
  • Pierce County Detention and Corrections Center – Services offered include health services, commissary, pretrial services, chaplaincy, inmate money, and road crew for minimum-security, non-violent offenders 

Special Topics


Offenders with Mental Health Disorders

Medical and Health Care for Confined Persons

Through RCW 70.48.130, the legislature requires that all jail inmates receive appropriate and cost-effective emergency and necessary medical care. RCW 70.48.130 requires governing units, the health care authority, and medical care providers to cooperate to achieve the best rates consistent with adequate care. As referenced in RCW 70.48.130, "governing unit" is defined in RCW 70.48.020(6) as "the city and/or county or any combinations of cities and/or counties responsible for the operation, supervision, and maintenance of a jail."

RCW 70.48.130 covers several issues related to the provision of medical and health care for confined persons, including payment. Although the confined person generally is responsible for paying for his/her medical and health care, RCW 70.48.130 addresses which entities pay for which expenses based upon the circumstances at issue (e.g., whether the person is eligible under the health care authority's medical care programs) and the means by which those entities can seek reimbursement. One of the scenarios addressed by RCW 70.48.130 relates to reimbursement for law enforcement agencies, including with respect to those agencies whose officers initiated the charges on which the person is being held in jail. RCW 70.48.130 also includes several references to chapter 74.09 RCW, which is a means by which providers receive reimbursement in some circumstances.

An issue of potential interest is that reference to "law enforcement" was previously deleted from RCW 70.48.130 and that wording has returned because the changes to the statute that deleted the wording expired on June 30, 2009. AGO 2005 No. 8 interprets a key provision of RCW 70.48.130 as it reads currently, with the "law enforcement" reference in paragraph (5) included. According to AGO 2005 No. 8, "subject to reimbursement by arrestees who are financially capable of paying for their own medical care, and setting aside certain cases in which the state is responsible for the expenses in question," the costs of providing necessary medical care to arrestees ultimately falls on the unit of government whose officers made the arrest, absent an agreement otherwise. Counties and cities do not always agree, however, regarding which agency is responsible for paying which expenses, especially where an agreement does not exist addressing such issues.


  • AGO 2005 No. 8 – Details the financial responsibility for costs of medical care provided to arrestees after detainment but before booking into jail.
  • AGO 1980 No. 21 – Relates to responsibilities for costs of prisoners between the city and county for felony convictions
  • Attorney General Informal Opinion – Establishes liability for medical treatment of prisoners between the city and county, pre and post sentencing

Reentry Programs

These programs help ex-offenders transition back into the community after having served a jail sentence.

Siting of Correctional Facilities (Jails, Work-Release, and Others)

Jails ("local correctional facilities") are, by statutory definition, considered to be essential public facilities (EPF) and subject to the provisions of RCW 36.70A.200.  

Siting Local Government Facilities

RCW 70.48.180 gives counties the specific authority to locate and operate jail facilities at any place designated by the county legislative authority within the territorial limits of the county, including within the city. RCW 70.48.190 grants similar authority to cities and allows cities to locate municipal jail facilities within the territorial limits of the county in which the city or town is situated.

While the Growth Management Act’s intent is to establish a collaborative process involving cities in the siting of essential countywide, regional, and state facilities, RCW 70.48.180 grants ultimate authority to the county. While the county would be required to follow the city’s permitting requirements, the city could not prohibit the siting of the essential public facility within the city. The city must follow a process for EPF siting that is consistent with the adopted countywide planning policies.

Siting State Government Work Release or Other Community-based Facility

RCW 72.65.220 details the siting process for the Department of Corrections and/or its contractors must undertake in siting work-release or other community-based facilities while WAC 137-57-050 covers site-selection procedures for work/training release sites.

Additional References



Recommended Resources

Last Modified: January 24, 2023