PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SPOKANE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: On Wednesday afternoon the Spokane County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to take over operation of the county's detention facilities (Spokane County Jail and Geiger Corrections Center), effective June 1, 2013.
The change in management was first proposed by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. In May 2012, Sheriff Knezovich approached the County Commissioners with a proposal to restructure the Criminal Justice System by having the County Commissioners operate the County's Detention Services Division.
The Sheriff's proposal called for the formation of a Detention Services Policy Board which would set the policy direction of the Detention Services for the community, similar to the Emergency Communications Board currently overseen by the County Commissioners.
The board would be comprised of representatives from municipal, county, judicial and law enforcement entities within Spokane County. County Commissioner Al French said today's decision will make it easier to complete a comprehensive overhaul of the criminal justice system.
"We have had a seriously fragmented system between the county, cities, state corrections, elected officials, and labor organizations. With approximately 70-percent of the county's $140-million general fund budget dedicated to law enforcement and criminal justice – we (the Board of County Commissioners) believe that having more control over how those funds are spent will encourage cooperation," French said.
Commissioner Todd Mielke stated, "I agree with the Sheriff's proposal and this is consistent with what we see in Yakima, Chelan and King Counties. We need to have a financially sustainable criminal justice system that appropriately administers justice, reduces recidivism, and is sensitive to victim's rights.
It simply doesn't make sense for one set of elected officials to be responsible for the budgeting of these programs, and a separate elected official responsible for the day-to-day operations." Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn said that today's board action is a positive step.
"The entire community is coming together to discuss the criminal justice system. The trend nationwide is to institute reforms and alternatives to incarceration. For example, pre-trial services, early case resolution, and therapeutic courts have already been implemented in Spokane County and are proving to be successful. However, we think more can be done and Spokane County will continue to lead that effort," O'Quinn said. Following this afternoon's vote Sheriff Knezovich said, "It is time to rethink how we deliver services to the community and to ensure all of the partners have an equal voice in these discussions.
Jail issues are a critical portion of the criminal justice system and one our community has been struggling with since 1995 when the Spokane County Jail was first identified as being overcrowded. I hope that this change in administration will finally get all of the stakeholders involved and at the table to solve this issue for our community."
The Board action will also eliminate the dual leadership issues which arise from the finances of Detention Services being directed by the Board of County Commissioners and the operational direction being set by the Sheriff.
The current system makes it difficult for either branch of government to map out a cohesive vision for operation of the Spokane County Jail and Geiger Corrections Center.