Spokane Jail System Overflowing With Prisoners

SPOKANE, Wash. - A three day weekend, filled with dozens of arrests, has left the Spokane County Jail and court system struggling to keep up with the flow of suspected criminals.

The jail enters its emergency status when the inmate population rises above 620 prisoners; Tuesday morning it was holding 645 inmates. That means that right now if someone was booked into the jail they would more than likely be let go free until their next court appearance.

Yakov Burlachenko was one of 144 people arrested over the Memorial Day weekend. Because he was charged with a felony, Burlachenko was held until he could appear before a judge Tuesday afternoon. However other alleged criminals, especially those suspected of property crimes, are getting photographed and fingerprinted in the jail's booking area.

Then they're getting released back onto the street.

"Property crimes, although in this case considered minor, they affect our citizens and we know our citizens want those persons who are committing those offenses to be incarcerated," Lieutenant Phil Tyler with the Spokane County Jail said.

Corrections deputies don't like releasing suspected criminals but have to make room in the jail for violent or repeat offenders.

"When our count reaches 620 inmates over a 24-hour period we have to institute some sort of changes to keep things from happening internally," Lt. Tyler said.

And last Sunday there were internal problems inside the jail. A near riot broke out when lighting on the sixth floor was turned off earlier than expected.

"Essentially a new deputy comes on duty, turns off their lighting around 11 p.m. They were dissatisfied to the point they stared acting out, inciting others to act out kicking on the doors, banging on the doors," Tyler said.

When inmates threatened to flood their cells, deputies turned off their water. Instigators were moved to another module but overcrowding limited their options. The jail is a powder keg and corrections deputies struggle to keep it from exploding all to often.

"We are getting very adept at it. We would like not to because ultimately it leads to injuries to staff, injuries to inmates and its a public safety risk," Tyler said.

Voters were going to have a chance to approve funding a new jail in November but that bond issue was postponed. So for now, corrections staff will continuing juggling surges in the jail's population by putting non-violent criminals back on the street soon after they're caught.