Inmate transfer may force Geiger closure

Published On: Apr 23 2012 06:23:40 PM PDT   Updated On: Apr 23 2012 06:46:34 PM PDT
geiger corrections center
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -

The future of Geiger Corrections Center, run by Spokane County, now hinges on a budget crunch within the City of Spokane.

Geiger Corrections Center houses more than 200 inmates, some of whom are City of Spokane inmates, but now the city is looking to save money in the next year by moving inmates from Geiger which in the end could save Spokane millions of dollars.

City Spokeswoman Marlene Feist says Spokane is considering its inmates to "either Benton County or another jurisdiction who has extra jail space and is willing to offer that jail space to us at a significantly lower cost."

Housing 50 misdemeanor inmates at Geiger costs the city roughly $10,000 a day. Benton County could house them for just $2,800 a day, saving the city roughly $3 Million a year.

However what appears to be a savings for the city ends up being a loss in revenue for Spokane County.

"At that point Geiger Corrections will close because it results in a $2 Million dollar deficit to the county," Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.

Geiger employs 80 people and Sheriff Knezovich hopes most of them could be worked into other positions. He says the best scenario would mean only 22 of his employees losing their jobs.

The other hurdle is finding room for the remaining 150 inmates at Geiger.

"They can't come back to the Spokane County Jail. We're in an overcrowded status right now," Knezovich said.

The city says it wants to work with the county but a $10 Million budget shortfall is the elephant in the room.

"This is sort of a balancing act. The mayor has certainly committed to work with the county commission on a timeline that makes more sense," said Feist.

But that could just be pushing back the inevitable, something the county says would help, for now.

"The longer the city can push that back for us the better it is for the community, our employees and our ability to make plans for the future," said Knezovich.

The city says eventually it will move inmates to save some cash.

"We're going to have an answer in the next couple months and then the final timeline would be laid out at that point on when we would expect to start moving prisoners to another facility," said Feist.

Sheriff Knezovich says part of the reason Geiger costs more to house inmates is because of its outdated design; Geiger was originally built as an Army barracks.