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Community meeting Monday to oppose new Spokane County jail

March 22, 2019

Spokane criminal justice activists will host a community meeting Monday to share arguments against a new county jail and instead push for alternatives to incarceration.

The meeting, organized by the Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR), will begin at 6 p.m. at Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, 3909 W. Rowan Ave. It will be open to the public.

The presentation will include speakers from SCAR, Smart Justice Spokane, the Center for Justice, I Did the Time, the Bail Project, the Spokane NAACP, the Every Student Counts Alliance and the racial equity committee of the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council.

Walter Kendricks, the pastor at Morning Star and a founder of SCAR, said he’s especially concerned about the number of deaths in the county jail and the time inmates spend locked in their cells – often up to 23 hours a day.

The debate over a new jail has persisted for years amid efforts to reduce overcrowding at the 33-year-old downtown jail and the Geiger Corrections Center, which was converted from old Air Force barracks.

County Commissioner Al French, who chairs the Law and Justice Council, expressed support for a new facility in January, saying a jail with a better layout could be operated more safely and efficiently.

But others on the Law and Justice Council – a panel of two dozen city and county officials and community activists – argue the county should focus on reforms and limit its reliance on incarceration, which disproportionately affects poor defendants who can’t afford to post bail.

Last month, the state auditor’s office published a report finding roughly one-third of people held in Washington jails are eligible to be released based on their likelihood to commit new crimes and show up to court before trial. Such a move could save millions of taxpayer dollars while maintaining public safety, auditors found.

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