Push for a New Jail

When the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council met on June 8 – the group’s first meeting after the original Council was disbanded and a new, smaller group was formed to take its place – attendees heard many familiar arguments for building a new jail. Mike Sparber, Senior Director of Law and Justice, emphasized the crowded conditions at the downtown jail and the deterioration of the WWII-era facilities at Geiger Corrections Center. “We’ve done a lot of due diligence up front,” Sparber said.

What happened to the old SRJLC?


But members of SCAR and Smart Justice Spokane who were in attendance disagreed. Where was the data to back up the council’s claims? Were any alternatives to a new jail being seriously considered? Perhaps most concerning is that the proposal plans for “projected inmate growth” over the next 25 years – which means no plan for reforming the system.


Most People Being Held at the Overcrowded Jail Have Not Been Convicted of a Crime

At one point, Sparber mentioned almost as an aside that the majority of the population at the downtown jail is pretrial. That’s right: Most people being held at the overcrowded jail have not been convicted of a crime. What are the strategies for reducing the pretrial population? What conversations are happening around the idea of eliminating cash bail to further reduce the jail population? What about mental health programs and addiction recovery support instead of incarceration? The SRLJC has yet to answer.


Voice Your Concerns

Conditions at Geiger are deplorable, and overcrowding at the downtown jail is unacceptable, but a new jail is not the answer. Email Mike Sparber at msparder@spokanecounty.org and let him know that Spokane needs a new approach to criminal justice, and that a new jail is not part of that approach.