Justice Project (Public Health, Safety & Justice Initiative)

Online Survey 

Through November 18th, the Whatcom County Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) is asking community members to take a brief online survey to share their feedback on our community's needs for facilities and services before, during, and after incarceration. Public input will help the SAC develop a Justice Project Needs Assessment report. 

Click here to take the survey. 

Visit www.whatcomjusticeproject.org for more information about this public engagement effort. Attend the Town Hall event on Nov 15th, see details below. 

Video Tour of County Jail 

In September 2022, a video was created to give Stakeholder Advisory Committee Members a tour of the county's main jail facility to better understand the current conditions. Click here to view the video tour of the main jail.

Project Development 

On August 7, 2019, the Whatcom County Council approved Resolution 2019-036, adopting a statement of public health, safety, and justice facility planning principles for Whatcom County. The resolution identifies a need to plan for a criminal justice system that is built to address the root causes of incarceration and designed with rehabilitation as the goal. It acknowledges a desire to prioritize community-based preventative services, maximize successful re-entry, and minimize recidivism. It identifies a need to focus on reducing demand for jail by investing in behavioral health services.  Additionally, the County Council identified a desire for a potential ballot initiative. On September 10, 2019, Councilmember Barry Buchanan, the Executive's Office, the Sheriff and the Health Department presented to the Council Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee a further developed task list to complete a needs assessment, see Exhibit A. On December 3, 2019, the Whatcom County Council established a Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) to guide the development of a needs assessment (Resolution 2022-021 as amended).

On February 11, 2020, the Whatcom County Council authorized a contract for consultant services to complete the Public Health, Safety, and Justice Needs Assessment (AB2020-055). Click here to view a presentation from HOK, the contracted firm that will lead an interdisciplinary team of professionals with expertise in behavior health, criminal justice, facility design, and public outreach as well work closely with stakeholders to complete the needs assessment. On March 25, 2020, the project team announced a pause in the project until mid-May due to the limitations to gathering resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency. A June 23, 2020 memo to SAC members from Executive Sidhu, Sheriff Elfo, Councilmember Buchanan, and Prosecutor Richey extended the pause on the project through the end of the year.

Project Restarted 

On September 28, 2021, the Council passed a motion to re-engage the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) members, and the first SAC meeting was held on January 20, 2022.  On April 26, 2022, an update on the project was provided to Council (see AB2022-159), including a presentation on the work to date with the SAC and the plan moving forward to create a needs assessment report. On September 13, 2020, Council authorized two contracts for consulting services to support the project in communications and in meeting facilitation (AB2022-475 and AB2022-495). A communications consultant will be assisting with implementation of a public engagement plan for the project (see plan and appendices). More information about the activities of the SAC throughout 2022 is available on the SAC Meetings and Additional Information page.  


Individuals who require special assistance to participate in the meeting are asked to contact the Council Office at 360.778.5010 at least 96 hours in advance.

  • Stakeholder Advisory Committee Meeting information (including zoom join links, recordings, and agenda materials) is available here:
    SAC Meetings and Additional Information
  • Whatcom County Justice Updates, September 23, 2019  7:00-8:30 p.m..
    Whatcom County Council Chambers, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225
    Click here to view a press release for this event.
    Click here to view a video of the meeting.
    Click here to view the presentation slides.

Background Information