Correctional facilities on Gregoire's chopping block - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Correctional facilities on Gregoire's chopping block

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich (File Photo) Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich (File Photo)
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(The Spokane County Jail is not on the chopping block, but Spokane
County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is worried that partially closing or
closing five state correctional facilities will put more pressure on an
already overcrowded system)



OLYMPIA, Wash. - Before a joint session of the House and Senate, Gov. Gregoire Tuesday proposed closing or partially closing five correctional facilities across Washington State.

The closures, according to Gregoire's testimony, would save the state more than $60 million while at the same time, would not affect prisoner release dates.

"First, I propose to close, or partially close, five correctional facilities. By more efficiently using the beds we have, we can save $65 million over four years and not release a single offender prior to his or her earned release date," said Governor Gregoire.

One of the facilities that could face complete or partial closure is McNeil Island, the center that houses convicted rapist Kevin Coe. The extent of the closures is currently unknown.

The proposed closures have at least one Eastern Washington law enforcement head worried. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says the closures would put more pressure on an already overcrowded system.

"It's difficult when you start closing facilities. Geiger is one of the facilities that we have basically cut its population in half because of the budget," said Knezovich. "That just meant more pressure back on the main jail. It means more pressure back on the streets... I just hope that they can pull that one off."

Tuesday, Gregoire also proposed reducing the size of the three juvenile institutions and added the last time the state closed an institution was in the 1970s.

Gregoire led into the proposals of closing the correctional facilities by saying "Now is the time to have the courage to close institutions that may be an important fixture in a community, but are no longer cost effective, or whose services are no longer needed or can more effectively be provided elsewhere."

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