Yakima Countys new pretrial release program seeing success
A few years ago, an examination of the Yakima County Jail showed more than 60 percent of its inmates were awaiting trial. Officials started looking at how to reduce that percentage.In 2013, the Eastern Washington county was chosen as a site to test a Justice Department-affiliated initiative to reduce the number of people in its jail who had not yet been convicted. So far the results seem promising.Under the old system, Yakima County Superior Court Judge Richard Bartheld explained, he’d typically see those arrested in a first appearance the next “judicial day” after they’d been arrested. At that hearing, the arrested parties would appear on their own and answer some basic questions. Only rarely would they have an attorney.Then, usually based on little more than their answers, the prosecutor’s statements and what was in the preliminary police report, Bartheld would make a call on whether to release the defendant, set bail, or jail him.“One of my concerns as a judge in Yakima County was I wasn’t getting good information to make informed decisions on release decisions,” Bartheld said.