SPOKANE, Wash. - Hundreds of people from across the country gathered in Riverfront Park Thursday to protest plans for a new jail in Spokane County.
Many of those demonstrators are with a faith-based group called the Unitarian Universalist Association, which is hosting its general assembly in Spokane this week. The organization has been working to end mass incarceration across the country and wanted to host an event to support local groups doing the same in Spokane.
Demonstrators advocated for alternatives to incarceration.
"It sounds like it's a lot like back home," said Rayna Bick, who's visiting from Flint, Michigan. "These people here have the same problems. You need to treat mental illness. You need to build homes and find people help. You need to give them services. You need to make your schools really good so that kids don't drop out and end up in crime."
Those concerns are echoed by those who have called Spokane home for years.
"I think it's very easy sometimes to think, to feel isolated and to think, maybe we're the only ones talking about this, maybe no one's hearing us, but the reality is, communities all over the country are facing the same crisis and the same question," said Liz Moore, director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane.
One of the women leading the charge against a new jail at Thursday's rally is someone who's familiar with the Spokane County Jail, because she's been there before.
"I've sat in Spokane County Jail. I've also sat and done some time out there at Geiger and I just know that they're awful places to be," said Angel Tomeo Sam. "Jail shouldn't be a catch-all for somebody homeless or addicted."
The demonstration ended around 1:30 p.m. with people forming a heart on the lawn of the park, calling for no new jail in Spokane.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has criticized the jail in recent months, citing inmate deaths and overcrowding. Representatives have discussed building a new jail for more than a decade and county commissioners hope to have concrete plans by the end of the year.
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