'If we're importing criminal activity it has no place to go but up'

'If we're importing criminal activity it has no place to go but up' »Play Video
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- Yakima doesn't want to be known as the city of ex-cons. Yet, the state of Washington is dumping former inmates here. A lot of them don't even have ties to the community. The worry is they'll go back to a life of trouble.

"I think it's a good idea to basically improve the lifestyle and give a chance to the ex-inmate, but this is not the place," said Sonny Shaw, who manages the Bali Hai motel. He sees a lot of ex-cons try to check in to start a new life here in Yakima.

Prisoners can't go anywhere when they're released on parole. In some cases, the counties where they committed the crimes are off limits, even if it's home. So, they get vouchers to help cover their rent for that second chance someplace else.

A lot of motels on North first street accept those vouchers so that is where a lot of them end up. Police say the problem starts when that money runs out.

"After 3 months that money stops," said police Chief Dominic Rizzi. "Now, they're put out on the street and they're not the problem of the county they came from. They're now a problem of the city of Yakima."

YPD Chief Dominic Rizzi says the problem is that Yakima is getting more ex-cons than it should from other places. KIMA checked the numbers and they seem to back him up. Of roughly 1,800 prisoners released to a county that wasn't their home 81 came to Yakima County. That might not sound like a lot, but, only five other counties took in more, and they're all larger.

"We need to have those resources available for those who are from our city and our county, not from other counties," Chief Rizzi said. "Those counties need to step up."

The Department of Corrections says parolees starting over might choose Yakima County for different reasons: claiming family ties or better job opportunities. Police say those are often covers and parolees are coming here because of gang ties.

"If we're importing criminal activity, it has no place to go but up," said Rizzi.

Chief Rizzi is now trying to apply some pressure on the state to change its practices so Yakima doesn't get more than its fair share of ex-cons.

The Department of Corrections noticed the problem in Yakima last fall. It intends to scrutinize Yakima cases this year. The police department is the only agency working with the Department right now. Those efforts are still in the beginning stages.