More money for our courts means possible changes to Yakima County jail

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Extra money in next year's county budget may translate to new programs for our courts.

On the top of the list is a pre-trial unit, which will let low-risk inmates out of jail before their trial.

It costs Yakima county nearly 30 thousand dollars a year to house just one inmate in our jail.

"There's no way that Yakima County can keep everybody in our jail pre-trial, we'd have to build another jail," said Court Consultant Harold Delia.

So the county may be budgeting an extra 60 thousand dollars next year for the court system, thanks to more jail contracts with other cities.

The big plan with the money is to finally implement a pre-trial unit.

The team behind this would evaluate which low-risk inmates can be let out of jail before trial through avenues such as electronic monitoring and home detention.

"Based on our constitution people are innocent until proven guiltly. Based on case law we're supposed to look at the least restrictive alternative pre-sentence," said Delia.

The pre-trial unit would monitor the inmates and make sure they stay off drugs and show up to work.

Currently a judge has that option, but no one is designated to check in on them, or look into their background first.

The unit would also oversee which inmates get let out on furloughs.

"What we like to call it is getting smart on crime verses getting tough on crime. Using the citizens dollars the best we can," said Delia.

Initially the unit would have 3 workers, handling about 50-60 inmates.

Officials say it will cost over 300-thousand bucks to get the system running, which they hope will be by the first quarter of next year.

"Always keeping people out of jail if they're not dangerous offenders is a good idea economically and socially," said Kieren Gaul.

Once off the ground, it would only cost about ten dollars a day per inmate, compared to about 80 dollars a day for a jail bed.

The courts also plan to hire more security to monitor the mental health court and more funding for our gang intervention programs.