Former inmate calls Spokane County jail conditions inhumane

Spokane County leaders are touting changes at the Spokane County Jail amid claims that conditions inside are inhumane.

Eight inmates died in 14 months, including at least three suicides. The most recent death was August 25.

It was shortly after that that former inmate Dan Wise reached out to KXLY with his own personal story about life inside the jail.

Wise took a plea deal in 2014 for his role in managing a Georgia pain clinic that was over prescribing. He was serving time at a halfway house in Spokane County when he was accused of stealing chips, in 2016.

That landed him back behind bars while his case was reviewed. This time he was at the Spokane County Jail. He said that was the most traumatizing experience out of all his time served in other county jails and in federal prison.

“It’s really an inhumane living environment that promotes very horrible thoughts,” Wise said. “I consider myself pretty strong-minded and 27 days into this, I wanted to scratch my eyeballs out.”

Wise was released from jail after video showed he didn’t steal the chips.

Since his time in jail and prison, he’s built up his brand as a prison consultant, which started with a YouTube video he posted before he went to prison.

But his experience at the Spokane County Jail continues to haunt him.

He says the solitude, lack of compassion, and overall poor living conditions were enough to drive anyone crazy. That’s why he said he wasn’t surprised to see people taking their own lives there.

“They have to stop treating it as a human warehouse,” Wise said.

He’s not the only one with criticism for Spokane County Commissioners, who have oversight over the jail.

On Tuesday, local groups organized a march to let commissioners know that these deaths shouldn’t happen.

Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns said they’re listening and already implementing changes.

“We take it very seriously. We have committed, as a board, to work with nationally recognized experts in the field of reducing these types of incidents,” Kerns said.

Just last week, a suicide prevention specialist came to Spokane County Jail for an evaluation. He’ll release a report in the coming weeks.

Kerns also said corrections officers have tools to quickly cut people down who try to hang themselves. The jail also removed all bedsheets, which some inmates used to take their own lives. Kerns said medical staff also can distribute Buprenorphine to inmates experiencing painful drug withdrawal symptoms.

According to Kerns, jail staff go through yearly suicide prevention training, too.

“If there is something that looks like it could be an issue, we are going to jump on it as quick as possible,” Kerns said.

Despite those efforts, Wise said more needs to be done, including more supervised time outside cells and better access to addiction and mental health resources.

“They’re not dealing with the actual issue,” Wise said. “All of these ridiculous answers that they have come up with to solve the problem is not going to do anything, but maybe calm down the general public that has no idea.”