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  • Writer's pictureNo Mega Jail in Ferndale

Jail Tax Funds Should Go Directly to Community Services

Fund Services and Solutions that Work, Not Increased Mass Incarceration resulting from Failed and Inhumane Approaches to Crises on Our Streets 


Bellingham, WA –– In light of the news that Whatcom County voters approved a new jail tax, the Coalition to Transform Safety calls on elected officials to immediately halt jail expansion and instead use the funds for services that support people in crisis before they come into contact with the legal system. This coalition of working class and BIPOC-led grassroots community organizations and concerned individuals urge Whatcom County Council to stop perpetuating the traumatizing cycle of incarceration and reallocate resources to establish voluntary, community-based treatment facilities that address mental health and substance use disorders effectively and sustainably for Whatcom County.


Constructing a large new jail facility does not address the issues and is not a just solution. “Merely moving people to new cages will not provide a therapeutic environment or prevent recidivism,” said Jason McGill, Northwest Youth Services. We have no reason to trust that the same deterioration that left the current jail ‘crumbling’ in thirty years will not happen with the new jail. Instead, our focus should be on creating supportive environments that promote rehabilitation and growth outside of the carceral system.


Current health and community services are in dire need of funding. The jail proposal indicates that the new taxes would be spent on the jail first before any behavioral health services for incarcerated people are potentially funded. Devoting our taxes to a new jail will deny funding to essential programs, delay critical public policy changes, and lead to Whatcom becoming one of the most incarcerated counties in the country. Investing in community services and policy changes that alleviate inequality will create true community safety. These alternatives include:

  • Eliminating cash bail

  • Providing no-barrier housing

  • Expanding healthcare (including mental health)

  • Improving public transportation

  • Increasing food security

  • Providing trauma-informed crisis intervention


By addressing the root causes of Whatcom County’s challenges, we can foster a safer and healthier community for all.


“This is a sad day for Whatcom County, but it is not too late to reverse course. Pouring more money into a new jail will not solve the underlying problems we face; it will exacerbate them,” said Josh Cerretti, from the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center. “Fifty percent of people previously jailed reported to have lost their jobs and the majority of people are being held before being convicted of a crime. Diversion programs, releasing people, and providing services outside the jail are the most humane solutions to addressing the current jail’s conditions.”


Envision a future where our community meets the needs of people with well-funded social service professionals and programs, not a budget overladen with funding a bloated incarceration system that eats away at cheaper and more effective social services.  Eliminate old policies that increase disproportionately incarceration of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, perpetuates the injustices we have seen for years.


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