Committee details new booking standards for Yakima County Jail

Committee details new booking standards for Yakima County Jail »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- A drunk tank for DUI offenders and an expansion of diversion programs for mentally ill inmates are among the latest proposals to make the Yakima County Jail run more efficiently.

"It doesn't necessarily work as well as we would all like it to be," said Department of Assigned Counsel Director Dan Fessler. "And, the jail becomes the mental health, treatment hospital of last resorts

The big push remains to let low-risk inmates out of jail on home monitoring until they go on trial.

That takes new booking rules for law enforcement.

The law and justice committee proposed changes to Arrest warrants, which would streamline information to get people on electronic monitoring, without ever going to jail.

Prosecutors are working on a list of crimes they feel don't require immediate jail time.

So far, first-time offenders for things like forgery would not be booked.

A separate pre-trial unit would screen inmates who are booked, recommend who gets be released and supervise the monitoring.

Judges are in favor of the plan and want the system in place by the new year. Not everyone was on-board and ready to endorse this pre-trial program.

There were differing opinions on inmate supervision under this proposed plan.

Some want the committee to explore cheaper options instead of supervision. Court Consultant Harold Delia made one thing clear.

"If supervision isn't a part of the program, the judges will not be participating," said Delia.

KIMA asked, "And, if the judges don't participate?"

"No program," Delia said.

The program is expected to cost $250,000 coming from reserves.

That estimate comes from the courts, but there could be more expenses commissioners haven't heard from other departments.

Like the need for two more jail employees to handle the home monitoring load. Commissioners want to know now to avoid surprises later.

This is a business and we don't want to pour money down a rate hole. So there's got to be a benefit to the budget, to the county overall and the tax-payers before we'll risk that up front," said Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott.

Commissioners will review a preliminary budget next week and need to adopt a formal plan in November.

The Law and Justice Committee will meet again in two weeks.