Spokane County Commissioner Al French is trying to build momentum to put an initiative to fund a new county jail before voters this year.
Spokane Mayor David Condon believes it’s too early to consider that.
Commissioner French says there’s consensus among city and county elected and criminal justice officials that the current facility is tired and overcrowded. It was built in the mid-1980s and is considered to be obsolete in some ways.
But past attempts to design and fund the next version have led nowhere. French told Spokane Public Radio last month that he’s working with local elected officials to design an initiative for the November ballot.
Spokane Mayor David Condon agrees with the diagnosis.
“The inordinate amount of dollars that we’re spending in our criminal justice system, with the outcomes that we’re seeing, is not sustainable and is not prudent for us as a community,” Condon said.
For several years, the local Law and Justice Council has been working on reforming the county criminal justice system. They’ve devised ways to divert offenders away from the jail to lighten the burden on the facility and the system as a whole. Those have had mixed success. The jail and the Geiger Correctional Center on the West Plains are frequently well beyond their intended capacity.
But Condon says a new jail would be only part of the overall reform. He says the community needs to have a thorough discussion before committing to a funding mechanism for a new jail.
“The facility, or facilities, that we look at, in my opinion, should be able to be funded through the reforms that we do, if not in their entirety, in a major way," Condon said.
We’ll have more of our conversation with Mayor Condon on SPR’s Inland Journal next Thursday.