Kitsap County Jail lays off nine deputies after state cancels contract

The Kitsap County Jail has handed layoff notices to nine deputies, stating that some or all of them will no longer have their jobs after Dec. 31.

Like all county departments, the Sheriff’s Office has felt increasing pressure to cut budgets and operate within its means.

The department was in step with the rest of the county, but was dealt a severe blow last month when the Washington State Department of Corrections canceled a $430,000 contract to reserve a certain number of beds.

“We have exhausted all possibilities of curtailing expenses,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson. “The loss of revenue forced us to cut certain positions.

Wilson said the number of layoffs has yet to be determined, but would most likely be no less than six and no more than nine.

The layoff decisions are based on seniority, and the affected deputies have already received notification.

“We rely on outside sources for a lot of our revenue,” said acting assistant budget director Susanne Yost. “The loss of the DOC contract caused a ripple effect, which left us no other choice but to make the cuts.”

Yost said the cuts would proceed unless another source of revenue is discovered.

“This is very difficult,” she said, “but there are no alternatives.”

The jail has already implemented several cost-cutting measures, including reducing the food budget, closing the work release program, cutting back on visiting hours and reassignment of administrative personnel to jail operations.

It has also increased revenue generation with the increase of service fees, such as those for home monitoring.

At Monday’s Kitsap County commissioners’ meeting, two deputies made public statements about the importance of maintaining full strength in the jail, and spoke out against the cutbacks.

Both Deputy Terry Cousins and Lt. Genie Elton said they made the decision to testify in front of the commissioners on their own and were not directed to do so by the sheriff’s administration.

“If we shrink our staff and close areas that house offenders, the county will suffer greatly,” Elton said. “As a citizen, I am counting on the fact that if I call 911 for help that a deputy will respond to my home and there will be funds to complete the investigation and incarcerate the assailant.”

While the county administration has consistently stated that sacrifices must be made across the board, Monday’s testimony cautioned against supporting unfunded mandates at the expense of law enforcement.

“I have heard we have 43 parks in the county,” Cousins said. “I think it is more important to maintain the jail staff than to keep all these parks open.”

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