Why not try real solutions?
Spokane could just decide to love its community more. Everyone wants less crime, but leaning on police to do all the work just creates more prisoners. We need to actually invest in our community; in each other.
1) Reform the criminal justice system rather than reinforce it.
There is broad agreement, both locally and nationally, that several aspects of the criminal justice system are dysfunctional. Spending millions of dollars on a new and bigger jail invests in those dysfunctions.
2) A new and bigger jail would reinforce the problem of mass incarceration.
“If we build it, the system will fill it,” for it is the nature of systems to fill vacuums. By building a bigger jail we would perpetuate and exacerbate a broken system.
3) Increasing community and social services will reduce incarceration rates.
In February Spokane City Police made a presentation of a diversion program to the SRLJC, which illustrates this important point. The Jail Diversion Unit created in cooperation with Frontier Behavioral Health has already proven effective in reducing incarceration and increasing police productivity by redirecting people with mental health issues to treatment, rather than punishment.
4) A new jail would extend and perhaps increase the bail problem; fix the bail problem and there will be many unoccupied beds in the county jail.
Spokane has the 2nd highest percentage of people currently in jail held without bail. That percentage is 77%. To state the obvious, these people are presumed innocent, but they cannot afford bail. Spending time in prison creates hardship for these members of society, their families, and their employers. By incarcerating these innocent poor people, we jeopardize their employment, strain marriages and other relationships, and potentially separate them from their children. Going to trial wearing a prison jumpsuit increases the chance of being found guilty. Wasting months in jail motivates individuals to accept a plea bargain, even when innocent.
5) Eliminate or reduce the number of beds rented to federal agencies in order to reduce overcrowding.
Part of the overcrowding in the current jail is caused by the County Commissioner’s decision to rent beds to Federal law enforcement agencies. The overpopulation puts incarcerated humans at greater risk and further dehumanizes incarcerated persons.
6) Use community supervision and free up approximately 300 beds.
As reported in the Spokesman Review recently, Spokane is underutilizing community services, which results in greater expense for our criminal justice system. Free up beds AND save money at the same time!
7) A bigger jail without reforms will compound racism.
Whatever the intent of individuals, the results of our current criminal justice system are racist. A bigger jail will only perpetuate the racial disparities we are trying to eliminate.
8) Restorative justice requires smaller jails, not larger ones.
Punitive justice is not justice, but has become a means for our government to dehumanize its citizens. Criminal justice reform restores citizens to contribute to the greater good. Spokane School District is beginning to demonstrate the benefits of practicing restorative justice.
For more information contact Pastor Walter Kendricks
at (509) 534-4878
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander