Shorter jail stays saving taxpayer money

Shorter jail stays saving taxpayer money
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- It's a backlog that takes months for criminal cases to make it through the system. That's the story for Yakima County. The truth is it's a lot better than it used to be. Yakima County's efforts to cut the time seems to be paying off, and it's saving your taxpayer money.

Your right to a speedy trial might sometimes feel like it's moving at a snail's pace. But, criminal cases are moving faster in Yakima County.

"Before, we had a huge back log of people, so they were just sitting there," said Yakima County Court Administrator Harold Delia. "It was like a huge lump in the system."

That lump prompted some serious changes designed to make the court system more efficient. They came out of the ongoing sessions of the Law and Justice Committee. A key provision gave judges more power to limit delays. They now will not grant more than one continuance in a case unless there are extraordinary circumstances.

"We did our job, we did what we set out to do," he said.

You can see the sharp reduction on the amount of time it takes felony cases to move through the justice system. The average number of days suspects in Class A felonies waited to to get their cases resolved last year dropped by more than half from 2011. Class B and C felony cases also improved.

These times don't include sentences. They're just from when someone is booked into jail until a resolution is made on their case.

"People are getting justice quicker," Delia said. "Whether it's victims, whether it's community members, whether it's the defendant, they're getting it quicker."

The shorter time to process a case means defendants aren't spending as many nights in the county jail. Administrators say that alone has saved more than $200,000 in taxpayer money.

The Law and Justice Committee will go over the numbers this month and consider any more changes that can improve the process.