Almost a third of all prisoners in Wa return within three years - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Almost a third of all prisoners in Wa return within three years

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PASCO, Wash. -- The number of inmates returning to state prisons within three years of release has remained significantly high for more than a decade.  According to the Washington State Department Of Corrections, their last tracked year was 2008, and 27.9% of criminals came back behind bars within three years. A small drop from 28.7% in 2007 and 31.2% in 2006.

Monday, two men appeared in front of a Franklin County Judge in connection with a burglary and attempted sexual assault. One of them is a level three registered sex offender recently released from jail. 37 year old Terry Hoefler, registered in Mesa is accused of trying to sexually assault an 11-year-old girl at Oakdell Egg Farm during a burglary.

"What we're looking at right is that this guy is recently released from prison, from a very serious charge, and now he's back doing a very serious offense again," says Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. Sant says it's not surprising to see people who recently left prison to return. He says more than half the people at their felony criminal dockets are repeat offenders. And he doesn't have a good solution. Sant does however say that days they do try to keep some criminals out of jails and prisons if possible through their Felony Diversion Program. It allows some first time, non violent offenders to stay on probation for two years and work to provide restitution for their victims.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office has been keeping track of 217 sex offenders this last quarter, 23 of which are considered level three. "At least once every three months we go to their house and visit them at their home and make sure they are living where they say they are," says Sheriff Richard Lathim.

He says that there are several factors that keep people in the criminal system, and the most common reason is drug and alcohol addiction. ""Drugs or alcohol and that's an influence in their life that, one they don't make wise choices, and also it impairs their judgement and in some cases, they do some things to feed their habit," says Lathim.

Sant says while they do have a Drug Court, it's not for everyone because criminals have to get clean and acknowledge their addiction as well as take responsibility for their crimes for it to work. He says, not all are willing to go through the steps.