Details of Spokane County Jail replacement will be complete by end of year, commissioner says

Replacing the Spokane County Jail is a topic that’s been discussed and debated for more than a decade, but County Commissioner Al French says “concrete plans” will be complete by the end of the 2019.

“This year, one way or another, we’re going to resolve this and be done with it,” French said.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says the current jail is overcrowded, adding that it’s not uncommon for deputies to park outside the facility for hours at a time — waiting for a cell to open up. Knezovich said after waiting for a cell, many repeat offenders only end up serving a few days, in part because the jail is so overcrowded. Knezovich said repeat offenders in Spokane County are not held accountable.

“You can committ 50 burglaries and not have any bond. It’s amazing,” the Sheriff said. “There are people out there, that if you give them a chance, they will change their lives. They’ll go back to being productive citizens. But that repeat offender that doesn’t want to change their lives — they need to be held accountable.”

Both the Sheriff and Commissioner believe the County Law and Justice Council is too focused on moving people out of jail.

“We have discussions all the time and all we’re discussing is how to we let these people out. Not how we change that behavior, not how we hold them accountable. All we talk about, meeting after meeting after meeting is how we empty that jail,” Knezovich said.

French said once new jail is built, the Geiger Correctional Facility in Airway Heights would likely be shut down. The project would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and it’s unclear how the county would pay for it — it’s possible taxpayers would be asked to foot the bill.

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