KENNEWICK, Wash. -- In order to cut costs, the Undersherriff at the Benton County Jail, Jerry Hatcher says the ideal situation would be to operate near capacity which is 740 inmates. However Hatcher says that has not been the case since June when a new law called Swift and Certain Sanctions went into affect.
"Today we have 32 inmates from the Department of Corrections, and our total population is about 515 this morning. It used to be about 100 inmates that were coming from DOC so it's a significant decline to us," he said.
The law was backed by the Department of Corrections. The spokesperson for the department, Chad Lewis says it is based on studies that show parole violators comply better when they are jailed more frequently for shorter sentences. "There are no questions asked, there is no hearing, we're going to put you in jail. ... What research shows is that confinement alone doesn't do anything to deter criminal behavior. It just delays their activities. Then they come out jobless, homeless, possibly off their medication," said Lewis.
"Before they were sanctioned to 30,60,90 days here. Now they may be sanctioned to maybe 1,2,3 days here," said Hatcher whose DOC jail population has dropped 44% on average since June of 20102.
Lewis said DOC pays Benton County about $65 dollars a day per inmate. With shorter stays means less money for Benton County's General Fund. Hatcher says in 2011, Department of Corrections inmates brought in $2.4 million dollars to Benton County. In 2012, with the law going into affect in June, that number dropped to $1.2 million forcing the sheriff's office to cut staff by nine. "As a taxpayer, we're responsible to you, so we don't want to have staff sitting around for capacity of 740 when we have 500 in here," said Hatcher.
The Department Of Corrections estimates it will save $30 million dollars in the current budget cycle, due to the legislation. Lewis said while DOC oversees 15,000 offenders state wide, the number of people in jail has dropped significantly since June from an average of 1,400 inmates per day to 400 per day.