Sheriff teams up with non-profit to discuss concerns with Spokane County Jail

Sheriff teams up with non-profit to discuss concerns with Spokane County Jail
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The Spokane County Jail has come under fire in recent months — first, as eight inmates died over a 14-month period, then, when sheriff Ozzie Knezovich voiced his frustration about the jail’s overcrowding.

“Whenever you have people being released on their own recognizance, and they go out and have more contact and they end up dying, that’s a problem,” said Knezovich. “There are times where I feel like I’m trapped in Groundhog Day, because we’ve been discussing this issue for the last 14 years.”

Knezovich sat through another discussion Monday, this time at a community forum, alongside about 50 men and women who share his concerns about the jail.

“I work with a lot of survivors of domestic violence and stalking and sexual assault so I thought, the more I know, the better I am at my job,” said attendee Edie Rice-Sauer. “I was coming to learn and I mean, it’s an issue for all of us.”

Rice-Sauer listened to representatives from independent non-profit The Vera Institute of Justice speak about their mission to revamp policies and practices in local justice systems before sharing her concerns with others in attendance.

“There was a lot of talk about the increased need for mental health services,” Rice-Sauer said, before she addressed the recent inmate deaths. “It’s obviously a concern to all of us that this should not be happening in our jails.”

Those concerns did not fall on deaf ears. Liz Swavola, program manager at The Vera Institute, made sure of that.

“We have a national perspective on what other communities are doing, practices that have worked well, practices that haven’t worked so well,” Swavola said.

The non-profit’s task force will take what was said at Monday’s meeting to county commissioners in hopes of creating change and solving the problems plaguing the jail and those outside of it.

If you couldn’t make Monday’s meeting, there’s another on Tuesday at the Northeast Community Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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