The Yakima County Jail is almost completely full. But a new pretrial release system should help free up some space and save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
YAKIMA, WA - The Yakima County Jail is almost completely full. But a new pretrial release system should help free up some space and save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.
County Commissioners say there are plenty of reasons for this new program, obviously saving money is one of them. But also a pretrial system would keep one mistake from ruining the lives of some non-violent offenders.
According to Yakima County, some of these inmates don't need to be here. But a new pilot program could change that and help the county avoid a looming problem.
"Our main facility in downtown, we are nearing capacity at this point," County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey said.
With that in mind, Yakima County Commissioners have approved a new pretrial system that will release some inmates awaiting trial for non-violent misdemeanor crimes. This could save Yakima County hundred of thousands of dollars.
"It's the right thing to do," Bouchey said. "Second to that it cuts down on our cost of incarceration."
Up to 60 inmates behind bars right now would be eligible for the system. First the inmate has to pass a list of criteria such as little to no criminal history, having a job and posing a low risk to society. At 130 dollars a day per bed, times 60 inmates, that adds up quickly. But it could do more than just cut down on cost.
"In many cases these people are found not guilty," Court administrator Harold Delia said. "They're found not guilty and they've lost their job, they've lost maybe their family because they've been in jail the whole time."
Yakima is looking for help in setting up this new system. They are in the final stages of applying to partner with the Arnold Foundation. The foundation would provide free training and support setting up the new system and would also evaluate its success a year from now.
"And that's key for the board of county commissioners," Bouchey said. "That after a year we need a third party to look at the results of what's been happening. Are we really gaining benefit from having a pretrial program?"
Yakima County hopes this new pretrial system will help save money and help people who don't need to be behind bars to continue to live their life. Court administrators say people in the pretrial program will be monitored closely by the probation department to make sure they do not pose a threat to society.