Overview of situation
Why we should be concerned.
On March 23, 2011, a small groundbreaking ceremony was held at the fork at the intersection of the Yelm Highway and Highway 510 on the border of the Nisqually Indian Reservation, on what the neighbors thought was Fort Lewis property. This was the beginning of the construction of a “safety complex” by the Nisqually Tribe with 20 million dollars of federal grants and loans on land quietly acquired by a Congressional Mandate in Sept 2010. When complete, it will hold 576 inmates and 120 additional work release inmates, a fire station, a court house, 6 dormitories, a warehouse, and a work release center. This for-profit jail is built with federal money and the prisoners will come from Puyallup, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, Ranier, Tenino, Thurston County, ICE, Ft.Lewis, Washington State DOC, and various tribes. The land for this jail was given to the Nisually Tribe by Congress in Septemer 2010.
This is the only story published in The Olympian during the first four months of jail construction. There is no reporting about many hidden aspects of this decision to build a private jail using public money and land, in a residential community, with almost no transparency, and suspect ecological assurances.
On June 27, the Tacoma Tribune ran a story Work Begins on Nisqually Tribal Complex which details a 588 bed facility with an additional 120 work release prisoners, a fire station, a court house and support buildings
We have yet to see the media report that the Nisqually Tribe has plans for a residential housing development for seniors and low income residents, and is rezoning for commercial development in the same neighborhood.
This is a largely unreported story of the expenditure of public funds to send prisoners from throughout the state to a for profit regional jail run by the Nisqually Tribe.
The planning for this involved our publicly elected state officials and department heads working behind the scenes to make the decision to spend our tax payer dollars to promote privatize incarceration while our newly built Thurston County jail sits vacant because of lack of operating funds.
The Yelm Highway and Hwy 510 is increasingly dangerous due to high speed single lane increased traffic flow. The operation of a large prison complex will further stress these overburdened arteries.
Union jobs are lost , replaced by lower paying out of area jobs with less training and higher turnover. The Teamsters Local 252 has been contacted and we await their return call.
The Nisqually complex sits less than a mile from the geologically sensitive McAllister Springs and future McAllister wellfield drinking water protection areas. The springs currently supplies the majority of Olympia’s drinking water, and the McAllister Wellfield will supply drinking water for Olympia and the Nisqually Indian Tribe into the future. Liz Hoenig, Senior Planner for Olympia Water Resources, states that the development lies outside the boundary of the drinking water protection area and thus she does not anticipate a water quality problem. Hoenig does acknowledge that the City of Olympia has a joint stewardship responsibility for McAllister area water quality with the Nisqually Tribe and and will be coordinating with the Tribe on future projected phases of this development.
The environmental impact study made available to citizens only considers the impact of phase 1 development of 288 inmate beds.
Public/private partnerships that are cloaked in secrecy breed corruption.
It’s time for citizens to take back control of where our tax payer money is spent and who profits from the transaction.
Chronology Was a 20 million dollar jail built with the active participation of Thurston County Commissioners and state department heads? Did they work to create a private for- profit jail with public funds when these same officials had just constructed a 45 million dollar county jail that now sits empty? Did these public officials bring on unnecessary negative traffic, environmental and social impacts on our county? We are constructing a timeline of accountability to determine if our Thurston County Commissioners and Washington State Department Officials have entered into a private partnership in conflict with the best interests of the Washington State citizens.
We will explore if those officials who now are now saying, “We have no jurisdiction over the Nisqually Safety Complex because it’s in a sovereign nation…….” were themselves active behind the scenes in making it happen.
Area of Impact