Spokane County Jail may start refusing certain criminals to address overcrowding

Some have called the Spokane County Jail a “revolving door of criminals” over the last few months and now, the man who runs it says he may have a solution — and it doesn’t involve building a new jail.

Instead, Mike Sparber said Thursday he’s considering turning away certain types of criminals with specific types of warrants to their names from the state Department of Corrections.

“These are folks that the DOC has felt comfortable letting out into our community but have, in some way, have violated some part of their probation out there,” Sparber told 4 News Now in a phone interview.

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Sparber said those people have been given what are called administrative or secretary warrants. He was quick to explain those warrants are not given to those considered to be a danger to the community or those who have picked up new charges.

“When law enforcement… has someone that definitely is endangering our public or has to be removed from the public… detention services will be there to take care of it,” he says.

Sparber says those with less serious warrants are taking up bed space and the jail does not have enough room to book them for the time needed to serve their sanctions.

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“A lot of their population had serious opioid or addiction problems and they were landing on some of our withdrawal programs,” said Sparber. “What that requires for them to do is to stay in our facility longer in order to complete those processes.”

Sparber told 4 News Now the Department of Corrections does not pay for that treatment. Instead, he says, it falls on the jail and the taxpayers.

“We’re just looking for some help from the state to take a look at some of these things — an honest look at them — and some of the challenges we face locally,” he said.

Sparber said he has been in talks with the Department of Corrections about his concerns since May, but those discussions have recently stalled. He told 4 News Now if the two agencies cannot come to a compromise before Dec. 31, he will start to refuse administrative warrants starting the first of the year.

Neither Sparber nor a representative with the Department of Corrections could say where those people would go if they could not be booked into the Spokane County Jail. DOC communications director Janelle Guthrie sent 4 News Now a statement Thursday, which reads:

“The Department of Corrections has received notification that the Spokane County Jail will no longer accept individuals who have violated the terms of their community supervision. We are continuing to work on a mutually agreeable solution and are hoping for an extension while we continue this process. Both organizations have a vested interest in community safety.