No more inmate street crossing in downtown Yakima

No more inmate street crossing in downtown Yakima
YAKIMA, Wash. -- A move to improve public safety will keep inmates off the streets of downtown Yakima. For years, you could see a chain gang parade from jail to the Yakima County Courthouse to appear for their hearings. KIMA learned that is going to stop.

The virtual chain gang is coming to an end. For years, inmates from the Yakima County Jail have been brought into the daylight to walk across a public street and into the main courthouse. Solutions to fix this safety issue have been batted about before. But now, it will come to an end next month.

Officials say keeping this road clear of inmates walking to and from court from jail will both keep the community safer and save money.

The only exceptions are jury trials. Otherwise, all hearings will be held in the courtroom in the basement of the jail. The judge, attorneys and clerk will make the walk instead of the inmates.

"The judges were concerned about the safety and security of the community, because these people are in jail for a reason. And so, why not go over there, instead of bringing them and risking possible attempts of escape?" said Harold Delia, the Yakima County court administrator.

In addition to the safety concern, this move will also speed up hearings. They won't have to wait out the time to move the inmates.

"We anticipate a significant savings in personnel costs for the Department of Corrections," said Delia.

There was once a more elaborate plan to avoid the walk on the street. It included a skybridge connecting the jail to the courthouse. That turned out to be too expensive.

People who live and work nearby are happy to hear the practice will end.

"People will feel safer not seeing the criminal aspect of it, you know, seeing them shackled. They just get, people get scared because they see that," said Brian Kalakosky.

A simple solution to prevent a dangerous threat.

"It was a disaster waiting to happen in my view," said Delia.

Court administrators say the change also saves time. Walking the chain gang to court can take up to half an hour.