Spokane Group Challenges New Jail Proposal
A Spokane social justice group is beginning to build a defense against the concept of a new jail in Spokane County. The group held a public meeting Monday night to criticize the idea.
In January, Spokane County Commissioner Al French said he wanted to develop a ballot measure to fund a new jail for the November 2019 ballot. Nothing official has been announced, but members of the group Spokane Community Against Racism are already blasting the idea.
Kurtis Robinson, the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, challenged the notion that building a newer, perhaps larger, jail will make the community safer.
“What we’re doing is pouring money into penalizing people for their problems, instead of wraparound services that help them deal with the issues that we’re having," Robinson said. "It is time for us to have a paradigm shift in how we handle the criminal justice population.”
Liz Moore from the Peace and Justice Action League reminded the crowd about the county’s abandoned plans to put a jail bond issue on the ballot in 2011. Since then, she said county officials have failed at hitting their goals for reducing the jail population. The group says jail statistics show people of color are more likely than whites to be locked up, in terms of percentage of population. And they say poor people are likely to be kept behind bars longer because of their inability to post bail.
The commissioners were not at last night’s meeting. Pastor Walter Kendricks said the group hopes to arrange a meeting to make their case directly to them.