$50,000 study could point Yakima towards city jail expansion

$50,000 study could point Yakima towards city jail expansion
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Tight space and rising costs; two big issues facing the Yakima City Jail.

The 78-bed facility only houses men being held on misdemeanor charges.

"Our jail is inadequate for the total number of prisoners we have so we send a lot to the county jail," said Yakima City Councilmember Dave Ettl.

That's up to 110 inmates at a time in the county jail and the city jail doesn't hold any women.

Sending these overflow inmates to the county jail cuts deep into Yakima's pockets.

The city will pay the county $2.2 million dollars this year as well as an additional $500,000 for medical costs.

That's on top of what it takes to run the city jail.

YPD says the city pays close to $3.5-million a year running the jail and will now ask city council to spend $50,000 to examine expanding the facility.

"This is a lot of money. We need to make sure we're doing the right thing with the public’s money and getting the right bang for the buck," said Yakima Police Captain Greg Copeland.

Captain Copeland says the jail would need up to 250 beds to fit the city's needs.

The study may reveal doubling or tripling the capacity of the jail could drive down criminal justice costs over time.

However, KIMA wanted to know what that expansion could mean to your bottom line.

A utility tax on cable currently pays the bond that built the Richard Zais Jr. Center for Law and Justice.

That bond will be paid off next year.

The utility tax is set to expire then but could be extended or re-dedicated by council to potentially fund future construction at the police department.

"Other people are saying look, you got a jail down on the fairgrounds that's not being used, you got a restitution center in your community that's being turned into offices," said Ettl. "You've got more jails than you know what to do with. Why would you consider doing this? Those are fair questions."

Questions council will explore if the study is approved. Ettl said he supports taking a closer look at the system.

City Council is expected to consider the jail study during the next two council meetings.