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Yakima Officals Seeking Money Saving Options for Jails


Both city and county officials in Yakima are looking for cheaper ways to house local prisoners. The Yakima City Council today will hold a study session with county officials to talk about housing more city prisoners in the county jail or expand the current city jail. Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke says it’s a joint study session with the county commissioners that starts at 10 this morning at Yakima city hall.  Our news partner KIMA Action news reports over the last eight years, Yakima has been booking more people on misdemeanors, and saw jail costs jump 90 percent. But, Yakima’s jail budget hasn’t kept pace. The city’s trying to figure out a way to control those expenses.

“The county provides a viable alternative to the city’s own jail expansion operations. And, we need to look at that carefully. It’s good to have options. And this gives us the opportunity to assess those options,” said Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke.
Yakima pays the county jail to hold 110 beds per year because the city doesn’t have enough space by itself.
That deal comes with $2.2-million price tag. Not to mention half a million in medical costs, On top of that, Yakima spends another 1.3 million to run the city jail.

The consultants who studied Yakima’s jail issue predict the average inmate population will keep increasing over the next two decades.

And, Yakima could wind up paying the county double what it does now over the next five years.

An expansion of the city jail would likely be an added blow to Yakima County’s bottom line.

As it stands now, the county jail faces a $1.2-million shortfall, largely due to fewer bed rentals.

KIMA asked, “Would it be hard to lose that 110 bed rental agreement?”

“Yes, I think it would compound the issues we’re dealing within the Department of Corrections, certainly,” said Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott. “That’s a rental customer. So we lose lose those, It puts more onus on county government and the county general fund.”

The study also recommends taking a closer look at inmate medical costs.

Yakima had paid an extra million dollars to Yakima County for that over the past five years. City and county leaders meet Tuesday for a joint study session to go over the jail issue.

Yakima City Council will eventually decide whether to move forward on design plans for an expansion.

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