Spokane County ends contract with Martin Hall

Published On: Dec 13 2012 06:21:22 PM PST
Martin Hall
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Did you ever go through your bills a find a charge for something you weren't using anymore? That's what happened when Spokane County Commissioner Al French realized the number of kids being held in the juvenile detention center had dropped.

Back in the mid-90s, Spokane had such an appetite for crack even kids were selling it on the street corners. The community's answer to drug gangs and juvenile crime was to open a new juvenile detention center in Medical Lake.

"Counties across the eastern part of the state were stressed in terms of how to deal with juvenile detention and so nine counties came together and created a consortium that then took on the operation of Martin Hall from the state," Commissioner French said.

Spokane County's share of Martin Hall consisted of 5 of the 44 beds. Juveniles were fed, clothed and attended school there, and most of all Martin Hall relieved some overcrowded conditions at Spokane's existing juvenile detention center.

But during the past four years Spokane County hasn't been using those beds

"It's because our juvenile detention facility, in cooperation with the courts and our judges, have been able to develop alternative treatment processes for our juveniles that don't involve incarceration," French explained.

So the good news is we have fewer kids behind bars. The bad news is we kept paying rent at Martin Hall wasting, by French's estimation, $1.2 Million.

"$320,000 a year we were spending at Martin Hall and not using any of the beds. So that's taxpayer money from Spokane County taxpayers that was basically buying us nothing in return," he said.

On Tuesday, county commissioners voted to end its contract with Martin Hall.

That $320,000 in savings is going back into the county's general fund, although commissioners did spend a little of it to hire an additional corrections officer to work inside Spokane's own juvenile detention center.