|Woodbourne Correctional Facility|
Yakima, WA -- A tax increase and budget cuts are just some of the alternatives before county commissioners as they grapple with much-needed but costly upgrades to the main county jail in downtown Yakima, an aging facility with outdated security equipment and an increasingly dangerous inmate population.
A few statistics tell the story of a jail that increasingly looks like a high-security prison:
* More than 200 inmates -- a third of the total population -- are incarcerated for violent crimes, including 34 facing murder charges.
* Assaults on employees and incidents between inmates were on the rise until a partial lockdown quelled the violence.
* About three of every four inmates has some gang affiliation. Gang members operate under a "fight on sight" mantra that requires them to attack a rival gang member or face sanctions from their own gang.
"We are turning this jail into a maximum security prison as opposed to what it used to be, a county jail," said jail Director Ed Campbell.
The problem is that while the county sold bonds to finance security improvements at the jail, Campbell's department is hard-pressed to repay that debt at $515,000 a year.
What's more, commissioners have since learned of even more needs within the four-story, 27-year-old jail, forcing them to juggle other projects scheduled to be paid for with the bond proceeds.
It's a tricky balancing act.
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