Yakima County jail still hoping to cut down on low-risk inmates

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The Yakima county jail is still looking for new ways to balance their budget.
They had a plan to allow low-risk inmates out of jail on electronic monitoring before their trial, but that's now off the table.
KIMA sat down with jail officials to see what other options are out there.

There will be no get-out-of-jail passes any time soon for low level offenders waiting for trial.

The home monitoring systems for those non-violent offenders, would have an upfront cost of nearly half a million dollars.
This would have had to be taken from other sources or by raising taxes.
Neither a popular option.

"It really starts looking at getting smart in terms of criminal justice verses just getting tough and costing us hundreds and thousands of dollars with very little benefit," said Harold Delia, Court Consultant.

It's Harold Delia's job to apply for grants that will cover the entire cost of the program including costs for staff to monitor inmates, drug testing, and the actual electronic bracelets.

In the meantime, the prosecutor's office has been doing more plea bargains. These keep inmates in jail for as little as two weeks instead of waiting months for a trial.

"We're having less jury trials, which means less people sitting in our jails waiting to come to trial, so we're moving the system along much quicker," said Delia.

Another way of keeping cost down is through the mental health program in place. There are currently four inmates in the system. It works by providing medication, housing, and case management services to get them the needed help to break the cycle of going back to jail.

"You can't just keep locking them up and expecting them to change, you've got to change the underlying problems whether its drugs and alcohol, mental health conditions, those have to be addressed or we're going to keep bringing them right back into the joint," said Delia.

The jail does use electronic monitoring for low-level inmates already in the system.
Court officials hope to get the grant by next year, which would allow the program to expand for pre-trial home monitoring.