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Inland Journal, Sept. 20, 2019: Reviewing Spokane's Blueprint For Reform

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Today on the Inland Journal podcast, we’ll talk with two of the three authors of a 2013 review of the Spokane County criminal justice system. We’ll look at where progress has been made as community leaders ponder, yet again, whether to build a new jail.

Some of the recommendations from that Blueprint for Reform have been implemented; some haven’t.

Here to talk about that are retired Superior Court Judge Jim Murphy and attorney Phillip “Dutch” Wetzel. They were recruited, along with former U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt, to research and write the report.

The county sheriff’s office provided help to the trio as they conducted dozens of interviews and public meetings. After a year of work, they issued their report in January 2013 with a series of recommendations. Some of them have been acted upon. For example, the county has created a Law and Justice Council that features representatives from all parts of the criminal justice system. It has hired a full-time administrator to oversee the reform efforts. The court system has implemented a variety of measures designed to improve the courts’ operating efficiency. Local mental health providers are working with first responding agencies, on a small scale anyway, to provide in-the-field mental health assessments. That’s a move that has been widely praised. Some of that work has been funded by $3.8 million granted by the MacArthur Foundation.

Phillip Wetzel says there are still recommendations that haven’t been addressed.

When the three issued their report, their obligation was over. But now, six years later, Murphy says they’ll re-engage with the project this fall.