A jail by any other name is still a "detention facility"
The people who are expressing concern about the proposed new federal immigration detention tank in Portland's troubled SoWhat District are feeling the heat from City Hall and the developer cabal. We caught a nasty comment on this blog from someone working at GBD Architects, which was drawing up the plans for the facility without any scrutiny before the words "detention" and "cell" appeared on this blog and the firestorm began. The plans are still ongoing, but there's a lot more political friction being generated now, and the GBD folks apparently don't like working in sunshine.
The neighborhood association's land use committee is meeting tonight in the shadow of the infernal OHSU aerial tram [rim shot] to talk about the proposed facility. They've reportedly been catching flak from at least one prominent City Council staffer for daring to call the proposed facility a "jail." "It is not a jail!" we all keep being told.
But of course, it is.
Here are some dictionary definitions of "jail":
From Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: "A building for the confinement of persons held in lawful custody."It's clear that the to-be-remodeled building on Macadam can correctly be called a "jail," even though it's going to be run by the federal, rather than a local, government. It's a place where arrested people will be held awaiting their proceedings before a judge. Indeed, there's no better term for it than "jail."
From the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: "A place for the confinement of persons in lawful detention, especially persons awaiting trial under local jurisdiction."
From Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary: "A place of confinement for persons held in lawful custody; specifically: such a place under the jurisdiction of a local government (as a county) for the confinement of persons awaiting trial or those convicted of minor crimes — compare prison."
At the very least, the proposed new facility can properly be said to include a "jail." And of course, it's that part of the proposed remodel that is driving its neighbors nuts. The City Hall types and architects can call it whatever they want, but the issue here, plain and simple, is the location of a jail.
From a legal standpoint, the more important point seems to be that the proposed facility will be a "detention facility" within the meaning of the city's planning and zoning code, which defines that term as follows:
33.920.520 Detention Facilities"Detention facilities" aren't allowed, even in commercial zones such as the one on which the proposed facility sits, without "conditional use review," which we're told is a more thorough (and slower) process than the mere "design review" that the promoters of the project are pushing for. (Apparently, the property is owned by the Lindquist Development interests and under lease to the federal immigration authorities.)
A. Characteristics. Detention Facilities includes facilities for the judicially required detention or incarceration of people. Inmates and detainees are under 24 hour supervision by peace officers, except when on an approved leave.
B. Accessory Uses. Accessory uses include offices, recreational and health facilities, therapy facilities, maintenance facilities, and hobby and manufacturing activities.
C. Examples. Examples include prisons, jails, probation centers, and juvenile detention homes.
D. Exceptions. Programs that provide care and training or treatment for psychiatric, alcohol, or drug problems, where patients are residents of the program, but where patients are not supervised by peace officers are classified as Group Living. Programs that provide transitional living experience for former offenders, such as halfway houses, where residents are not supervised by peace officers, are also classified as Group Living.
Not that the facility couldn't pass muster in a "conditional use" application. It might. But among the criteria for approval is the sticky question of transportation, which is a real sore point in the entire SoWhat District. The proponents have to show that --
The transportation system is capable of supporting the proposed use in addition to the existing uses in the area. Evaluation factors include street capacity, level of service, or other performance measures; access to arterials; connectivity; transit availability; on-street parking impacts; access restrictions; neighborhood impacts; impacts on pedestrian, bicycle, and transit circulation; and safety for all modes...That will be an interesting bone of contention in this case.
Meanwhile, the big question -- how many inmates the facility would hold -- is becoming slightly less mysterious. We're told by reliable sources that the capacity is to be 100 detainees -- with a projected "average" of 10 to 15 of them present at any given time.