Yakima jails seek solutions for money problems - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Yakima jails seek solutions for money problems

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Yakima, WASH.--In a unanimous decision, Yakima's City Council voted to approve the second phase of a $50,000 study that will figure out the most cost effective way to house the city's convicted felons.

"I think it would be irresponsible to the citizens of Yakima if we didn't look at a long term plan and that's what this study will do," said Chief Dominic Rizzi of the Yakima Police Department.

City Councilwoman Sara Bristol said, "As a city we have an obligation to look at our costs specifically, but there's some recognition there that the city taxpayers are also the county taxpayers."

"There's been a traditional belief that you put people in jail and you forget about it, and they go through the process," said County Commissioner Mike Leita. "What we understand today, is that's a very expensive process."

Expensive indeed. Yakima pays the county jail a little over $2 million for 110 beds. A significant increase from 8 years ago when the city was only paying the county jail around $760,000. Why the huge increase? Medical costs.

"Prices are going up principally because the types of inmates we are incarcerating are more violent," said Leita. "They're certainly growing medical costs."

Chief Rizzi said, "The county is supplying a very valuable service for us, and we don't have the capabilities right now to house more than approximately 75 prisoners each day."

It's not cheap to house those 75 misdemeanor inmates either. In fact, the city said it costs them over $1 million a year, and this study will help them figure out the best way to reduce those costs.

The three solutions the city is looking at right now are building a larger city jail and not send any inmates to county, or sending everyone to county and close down the city jail, or keep going with the current plan. The study should be completed by the end of the year.