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Clark County Sheriff > Custody Branch > Jail History

Jail History

1860 Due to low population, little consideration was given to constructing either a courthouse or a jail. Initially, prisoners, when absolutely necessary were housed first in the goal of the old Hudson's Bay Fort and later in the military stockade at Fort Vancouver. This arrangement was finally altered with the construction of a jail located just northeast of the two story wooden courthouse constructed two years earlier. This wooden facility was constructed for $1,555 by Silas Maxon from a special jail tax.
  On June 13, 1860, Mr. A. H. Sheffield proposed to the Board of County Commissioners that he be allowed to run the jail and be given custody of any prisoners held there for the term of one year for the purpose of "working the prisoners for wages". In turn, Mr. Sheffield would be paid $1.50 per day and would be responsible for finding the work and watching them. The funds would be paid from the wages that the prisoners earned. The proposal was unanimously accepted by the Board and Mr. Sheffield was made the first official Jailer of Clark County.
1883 Judicial activity had increased to the point that the decision was made to construct a new courthouse. This courthouse was constructed on the site of the present courthouse and was built at a cost of $44,460. Unlike, the original this one was constructed to house the Sheriff's Office and the jail in the basement.
1885 Courthouse and Jail were built for $44,460. This burned to the ground in 1890. The fire apparently caused by defective furnace pipes, quickly consumed the whole building. Six prisoners in the jail at this time, all were saved, however singed. The jail was also the holding facility for the "insane" pending judicial determination.
1887 The general configuration of the jail is not known. What is known is that it was not escape proof. At least one escape took place on November 1, 1887 when three prisoners were able to construct a "key" and let them out of their cell and escape.
1925 Last Hanging, George Edward Whitfield, a twenty year old farm hand, found guilty of rape and murder.
1930 527 arrests were recorded for the year.
1931 Jail food costs were bid at 15 cents for breakfast and dinner, and lunch at 10 cents.
1933 Great Escape Foiled! Eleven prisoners attempted to tunnel out of the old Bastille Jail digging an 18' tunnel. The dirt was disposed of by flushing it down a toilet.
1941 New Courthouse and Jail was built. The Jail was now on the fifth floor of the Clark County Courthouse and opened in December with an operating budget of $33,335.
1943 Average Daily Jail Population fluctuated between 40-70 prisoners.
1981 Inmates in the north tank of the courthouse jail riot over excessive temperatures and overcrowding.
1984 The Sentencing Reform Act changed the way felons were sentenced and kept a larger number of inmates in local county jails when they used to go to state prisons.
  The new Law Enforcement Center and Jail Facility opened July 1984, with a jail capacity of 300 beds. Two federal inmates broke out a window and sawed through the bars and escaped from the new jail via the roof.
1988 The jail double bunked dormitories adding 50 more beds which increased the jail's capacity to 350.
1989 The old City Jail located in the basement of the Vancouver Police Department was reopened as an alternative housing and women's work release facility adding 28 beds. New jail capacity set at 378. Notorious child killer Wesley Allan Dodd was arrested and booked into the Clark County Jail. Dodd was hanged for his crimes on January 5, 1993 at Walla Walla State Prison.
1992 City Jail closed resulting in the loss of 28 beds. The annual average daily population was 426. A lease for two beds for women's work release was contracted with the Royal Arms Shelter. Jail capacity remains at 350.
1994 Medium Security Jail cells were double bunked adding 111 additional beds. Jail capacity at 461. Jail population tops capacity with an average daily population of 462. Projections indicated that by the year 2015, Clark County would need a minimum of 1200 beds for local incarceration needs. Jail officials prepare for overcrowding and problems associated with overcrowding.
1996 Sheriff Garry Lucas creates a Special Detention Unit with the objective being to site, build and operate a Jail Work Center. A citizen's citing task force was appointed to study and make final sites recommendations to the Sheriff.
1997 The jail's annual budget is $7,986,658. Annual average daily jail population is 561. The County purchases property from Alcoa Company for future development toward a Jail Work Center.
2000 The Clark County Jail Work Center opened in April. The facility operates two housing units, the In-Custody and Work Release Unit. The In-Custody Unit has 124 beds and the WR Unit has 99 beds.
2001 The Medical Services Contract was awarded to Prison Health Services. The medical contractor provides medical services to individuals confined in the main jail, Jail Work Center In Custody and Juvenile Detention facilities.
2006 The former main jail Work Release area re-opened designated as "H" Pod adding an additional 56 beds increasing operational beds to 614, which is over double the number of beds when the facility opened in 1984, for a population that reached a record of 875 inmates.
  The Main Jail facility underwent a retrofit which installed in each cell were tamper proof grills over vents and tamper proof plate covers over cell switches and outlets, and rubber bumpers in hallways eliminating chips in cement walls from various carts used.
  The Jail Work Center Work Release program passed the accreditation process and is an acknowledged American Correctional Association (ACA) facility.

2006 - 2007

The Clark County Jail facility underwent a remodel which included; adding four professional visitors booths in the North Lobby, adding four Video Arraignment booths one dedicated for Battleground Courts, an inmate restroom in one holding area, and half of the current library space to expand the medical unit.  The Jail Work Center kitchen floor was replaced.
2007 The Clark County Main Jail experienced in March, two completed inmate suicides and in December a first ever hostage situation which ended peacefully with the assistance of the SWAT Team.  The last completed suicide was in November 1998.
  The Medical Services Contract was awarded to Wexford Health Sources. The medical contractor provides medical services to individuals confined in the main jail, Jail Work Center In Custody and Juvenile Detention facilities.
2008 In October, the Main Jail had another hostage situation which also ended peacefully.
2009

Clark County had a budget deficit requiring two rounds of departmental budget cuts resulting in closure of "H" pod, losing 57 beds in early 2009, and a total of 36 staff positions; 2 sergeants, 32 custody staff, 1 support staff, and 1 jail industry technician.

2010 The Clark County Jail was to eliminate 15 staff positions and close 100 beds by 2010.  A new contractor for inmate medical services and the County and Custody Officers Guild agreed to defer a 3.25 percent cost of living raise until 2011.  These two agreements saved the 15 staff positions and prevented closure of 100 beds.
  The Medical Services Contract was awarded to ConMed Healthcare Management. The medical contractor provides medical services to individuals confined in the main jail, Jail Work Center In Custody and Juvenile Detention facilities.
2012 The Work Release building at the Jail Work Center is closed due to lower inmate population.

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Clark County Sheriff's Office:
Street Address: 707 West 13th Street, Vancouver, WA 98660
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 410, Vancouver, WA 98666
Main phone: (360) 397-2211
Telecommunications Relay Service: (800) 833-6388, then call (360) 397-2445
E-mail: sheriff@clark.wa.gov
E-mails are monitored: Mon-Fri 8-5 p.m.

Responsible Elected Official: Sheriff Garry E Lucas

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