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Jailing Yakima's inmates in Sunnyside a possibility

"I've been running contracts for the Sunnyside jail for more than 10 years," said Sgt. Andrew Gutierrez. "Some years it's really good, some years there is nothing. Right now we've got a lot going on."

Gutierrez said he's been petitioning other cities to send their prisoners to the Sunnyside jail for quite some time. About six or seven months ago he joined with jailers from Wapato and Toppenish to petition the city of Yakima.

"We can give them a better deal than Yakima County," he said. "Our goal was to first, fill our beds and second, save Yakima some money."

The results have been fairly successful, although Wapato dropped out of the proceedings after finding enough inmates to fill its jail.

"Yakima has to pay the county a flat fee," said Gutierrez. "We said they can pay for what they use. It gives them a lot more flexibility and less overhead than the county."

Although the Yakima City Council is in favor of sending prisoners to Sunnyside and Toppenish, Gutierrez said Yakima's contract with the county doesn't expire until 2014.

"We still have to fill our beds until then, so I've been constantly soliciting," he said.

And he's been having success. The jail's average daily population used to be 50, but now it's between 75 and 80.

"That maxes us out," said Gutierrez. "We're full right now."

Another factor for Sunnyside is the cost per inmate. The city of Yakima would pay about $45 per inmate to house them in Sunnyside. West side cities that Gutierrez has made deals with pay about $55.

"We make more right now from west side cities than we would from Yakima," he said. "Next year could be an option with Yakima, but they have five or six options on the table. We're only one of those."

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