More plea deals = taxpayer savings in Franklin County

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. -- KEPR learned a record number of prisoners are now striking plea deals in Franklin County; saving your tax dollars and making sure everyone has their day in court.

This is not your father's way of getting justice. In one fell swoop, inmates are still seeing their days in court, all while saving local taxpayers plenty of money.

"We still have cases going to trial, but we're able to resolve cases in a timely fashion," says Franklin Prosecutor Shawn Sant.

This year, a record 500 prisoners struck plea deals before going to trial in Franklin County. That's a 20% increase since 2010. The county's prosecutor told KEPR it shows no signs of slowing. Some worry a plea deal means people won't be punished sufficiently for their crimes. But prosecutors will tell you these deals are crucial when thousands of cases come across their desks each year. Pleas speed up the process for lesser crimes like traffic violations, while also freeing space in the overcrowded Franklin County jail.

By having defendants plead out, it saves taxpayers tons of money, because there's fewer people in jail waiting to go to trial.

The overall savings for Franklin County? Upwards of $100,000 every single year. And that's not even including the benefits to your safety. Plea deals for non-violent offenders allows the court to hone-in on cases like rape and murder.

"We have to resolve things early and that's helping us resolve the cases," Sant tells KEPR.

There has been a lot of attention given to case loads following a state supreme court decision.

It's affected public defender contracts in Benton County.

Sant says it's too early to tell how this decision will affect his jurisdiction.