Governor signs Dye’s legislation offering greater flexibility to counties serving juvenile offenders

Commissioners involved in a nine county consortium received relief with a bill sponsored by Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy. House Bill 1983 provides new flexibility for member counties using Martin Hall Juvenile Detention Facility, based in Medical Lake. Commissioners sought the legislative change to ensure the facility remains viable during a time when the demand for beds has dropped.

Martin Hall is located on the Eastern State Hospital campus in Spokane County. Since 1996, it has met the juvenile detention needs of nine counties. Adams, Asotin, Douglas, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Spokane and Whitman counties are included in the Martin Hall consortium.

“Juvenile offenders cannot be housed in an adult correctional facility,” said Dye. “The state requires space for juveniles based on county population. This creates problems for rural counties. In order to provide the separate facilities needed to house juveniles, counties with lower populations are allowed to form consortiums to share a juvenile detention center. Current law requires the combined membership in a consortium of counties have a population of over 530,000.”

Dye's bill reduces the population requirements to 200,000, allowing Spokane County an option to reduce their bed allocation and provide space for other counties or tribes wishing to utilize the facility. All nine county commissioners must vote unanimously to allow this change.

“This was brought to me by members of the consortium looking for flexibility and efficiencies. It's a local government issue which allows counties to negotiate locally,” continued Dye. “There are counties on the eastern side of the state that entered into a consortium for Martin Hall and no longer use the facility. The population threshold under current law prohibits these larger counties from withdrawing from the consortium. My bill changes that threshold.”

Since Spokane County has a juvenile justice facility on its main campus, Martin Hall has been under-utilized. Spokane County continues to incur costs to maintain their required reserved space at the facility. By changing the population mandate, the Martin Hall consortium could seek new partners from other rural counties and tribes to use the vacant space. The change will also allow Spokane County to find significant savings in juvenile justice, while allowing them the option to return to the consortium in the future, if needed.

Lincoln County commissioner, Scott Hutsell, commended Dye's work on this bill. “This is a key piece of legislation for the future of juvenile detention in eastern Washington,” he said. “I sense her name on this bill is the reason this got done. She listened to us. She was a good champion.”

The law will go into effect on July 23, 2017.


Washington State House Republican Communications