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Thursday, July 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Yakima Takes Pressure Off Seattle Jail

Associated Press

The first of dozens of King County inmates are expected to begin arriving at Yakima County’s jail Thursday in a move to ease overcrowding at the Seattle lockup.

Yakima County, which has a surplus of jail bed space, has agreed to house as many as 40 King County inmates under a contract that would pay Yakima County $50 a day per prisoner.

On Tuesday, King County had a record jail population of 1,985, - 905 more inmates than its Adult Detention Facility was designed to hold.

“This is very important to King County. Our jail population is extremely high,” said Michael Graber, assistant director of operations for King County’s Detention Department.

King County isn’t expected to bring a new jail on line until 1997.

Overcrowding has forced King County inmates to sleep on mattresses on the floor. But a court order blocks the county from allowing the arrangement to continue more than three days.

The arrangement with King County is expected to net up to $300,000 per year, said Ken Ray, director of the Yakima County Department of Corrections, which has an annual jail budget exceeding $6.6 million.

The arrangement will not hinder Yakima County’s ability to lock up its own prisoners. Yakima’s jail was built to house 600 prisoners, but could accommodate as many as 650, Ray said.

Yakima’s jail population has averaged about 530.

Plans call for about five King County inmates to arrive Thursday, with increasing numbers during subsequent days.

“It’s expected to take about a month to work out all the wrinkles,” Graber said.

The King County inmates will be returned to Seattle after serving their sentences. Only minimum and medium security inmates will be accepted.

Because of the transportation costs, King County is expected to send prisoners facing longer sentences, said Ray Coleman, spokesman for the King County Department of Adult Detention.

Longer sentences are one of the reasons for overcrowding in the King County facility, Coleman said. The King County inmates won’t be watching television in their new home. Yakima Jail officials removed the last television sets from jail dormitories on Wednesday to encourage inmates to participate in educational programs, Ray said.

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