Yakima County Courts Reduce Case Backlog by 95% - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Yakima County Courts Reduce Case Backlog by 95%

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YAKIMA, Wash.-- Yakima County courts have made some big improvements when it comes to the number of backlogged cases that still need to go to trial.

In 2009, voters renewed the three-tenths of a cent sales tax fund that goes toward criminal justice. Using that money to increase resources made a world of difference in the county courthouse.

"We had about 80 cases that were in danger of violating the speedy trial rule, which means if they weren't heard within the time frame, they would be dismissed," Delia said.

Officials knew they needed to fix the backlog. In some cases, the accused would be sitting in county jail for a year longer then they needed to, just waiting to go to trial, costing taxpayers $70 a day just to be housed.

So, using taxpayer money, court officials revamped the criminal calendar system, hired more attorneys, and fixed the problem.

The move reduced the number of backlogged cases by 95%, from an average of 80 cases on the list at any one time, to only three or four.

"That's well under the state. This is incredible actually, to be in this position," Delia said.

And while the change helps the courts run more smoothly, it also saves taxpayers a lot of money in jail and court costs, while lessening the strain on judges so they're more available to hear non-criminal cases.
"Civil cases that were bumped or continued two or three times are now being heard more quickly," Delia said.

Good news for a justice system that sees no signs of slowing down any time soon.

"I think the public should be proud that their money, that they voted on, went to a good solution," Delia said.

To give you an example of the savings to taxpayers, the average offender spends about six months in county lockup before they're either transferred or released. Before the fix, they sometimes spent a year or more, costing an extra $12,000 in jail fees.