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DOC shuts down home detention program for low-level offenders in Yakima County

Department of Corrections (DOC) shuts down home detention program for low-level offenders in Yakima County

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- More people could find themselves behind bars in Yakima County.

An ankle monitoring program for low-level offenders recently shut down after years of operation.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) will no longer provide the home detention service that kept some suspects out of jail until their trial.

“They were going to shut down the program because they weren't making enough money to make it viable for the county to continue,” said Yakima court consultant Harold Delia.

A $60,000-a-year contract signed in February 2016 ended up costing the county about $400,000, with only a 30 percent return.

Three full-time staff and equipment also depleted more funds, according to DOC Director Ed Campbell.

“We saw the cost continue to go up as labor costs and equipment costs continue to increase, and the numbers of the offenders being placed on the program continued to decrease,” said Campbell.

The number of people has dropped 50 percent in five years, with fewer judges issuing home detention for suspects. It's been a steady decline from an average of 130 electronic monitors used during the 1990s to about 35 last month.

Action News asked why the contract was renewed last year.

“I think we're really concerned around DUIs because it has been historical that DUI offenders, if they don't go through treatment, will re-offend again,” said Delia. “So we want to make sure we're monitoring them in terms of their behavior in terms of during the day.”

Delia said ankle monitors are necessary for DUI offenders. The pretrial release program previously used 10 in rotation for DUIs, and another 10 for GPS tracking of high-end offenders in Superior Court.

But now for some, the system's price outweighs the benefits.

“It's kind of a fallacy out there that each individual costs a set amount of money,” said Campbell. “To put an additional 30 or 40 people in jail, that's not going to cause us to have to increase staffing.”

There are fixed overhead amounts and each inmate incurs a daily cost between $100 to $150. A cutback that's worth it when funding is sparse.

Delia said the program will return as they privatize the home detention program with two local vendors. However, the new contracts would require the offender to pay for his or her own ankle monitor for about $8 a day.

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