As county officials attempt to educate the public on the need for a new jail, a Utah-based consultant has expressed there needs to be more done in the prosecutor’s office to make sure charges get filed in a timely manner.
In a presentation to county commissioners on March 23, David Bennett – a consultant who has attempted to guide county law-enforcement in its efforts to reduce recidivism – said that 2010’s budget cuts may have impacted the prosecutor’s office negatively as many suspects are not being charged within 72 hours. They are then released back into the community, which Bennett deemed a “significant roadblock” to improving law-enforcement efforts.
Bennett said the prosecutor’s office was “somewhere in the 70-percent range” of where it had been just a few months ago. Without going before a judge in 72 hours, suspects can’t get into drug court or other programs that they may need. Or, worse, they’re not in jail when they should be.
In better news, new estimates suggest that the need for new jail beds may not be as great as first estimated. Current numbers suggest that about 250 fewer beds – which could save about $25 million in construction costs – will be needed for a new jail, wherever it’s built. Currently, the top locations for a new jail are at the downtown courthouse campus near the existing Spokane County Jail and two locations in the West Plains.
The top three locations chosen by commissioners will be analyzed in a workshop planned for April 20. A public hearing will follow on May 11, according to Lt. Mike Sparber, who is heading the county’s jail-expansion program.
It’s expected that a bond vote on new jail facility will come in April 2011. While it’s unclear yet just how much the cost will be, estimates for a vertical tower at the present jail site previously were expected to be around $265 million. A horizontal, campus corrections facility could be constructed for around $45 million less, although it would be costlier to operate due to transportation costs and other factors.
Along with a new jail, Sparber – who gave a presentation to the Spokane Valley City Council two weeks ago – has emphasized the “nonbrick” community corrections aspect of law-enforcement efforts that will seek to target repeat offenders and get them into programs that will stop their revolving-door cycle of being in and out of jail.
Public relations efforts will also ramp us soon to emphasize that point, in an effort to “tell our story,” said county Commissioner Mark Richard.
Bennett, however, has recommended a professional review of the prosecutor’s office in order to help it run more efficiently in lean economic times. The prosecutor lost seven attorneys and five support workers in the last round of budget cuts.
“Somehow, some way we got to get back in front of this problem,” Bennett said. “This is not acceptable.”