Sirens & Gavels

Spokane jail on cable TV: ‘The horror is real’

Cole Strandberg is escorted from the Spokane County Jail to his hearing in Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen's courtroom Thursday Feb. 4, 2010. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Cole Strandberg is escorted from the Spokane County Jail to his hearing in Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen's courtroom Thursday Feb. 4, 2010. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

It was the Spokane County Jail's time to shine last night on the cable TV show "Behind Bars."

The hour-long episode on the Discovery Channel featured a belligerent Army sergeant arrested for suspected drunken driving, an accused armed robber trying to overdose, a man arrested in a home-invasion robbery being dragged to the jail's isolation room in his underwear, a woman accused of murder communicating with her inmate boyfriend through the jail's plumbing system, and mentally ill accused killer Cole K. Strandberg, (top) whom the show dubbed our jail's "most notorious inmate."

Controlling chaos was a running theme in the show, highlighted by the footage of jailers dragging Bradley S. Hickey (right) to "the hole" in his underwear. Hickey was arrested last June in a violent home-invasion robbery.

Strandberg was featured throughout much of the show, including snippets of a jailhouse interview in which he open his jail suit to show off his tattoos and called himself "the most dangerous man in the world."

At one point, Strandberg looked into the camera and said, "the horror is real."

The show was the first of three on the Discovery Channel Thursday. The Memphis and Cleveland jails also were featured.

"Behind Bars" producers spent a few weeks at the jail in September and October, interviewing guards and inmates and filming them throughout the day. They focused on the Corrections Response Team, which deals with the most dangerous inmates.

The episode included video of Strandberg attacking the team in his jail cell in September 2008, breaking a bone in a deputy's neck.

One deputy can be heard saying "Oh, wrong move, Cole," after Strandberg lunges at them. Strandberg is tackled by the guards, then slams a deputy's head against the cement wall. (Strandberg is pictured above with the CRT. Deputy Nathan Foo, who was interviewed for the show, is at the left.) 

Another inmate, Dennis Sprayberry, showed producers how he slips other inmates prohibited items like hot water while handing out laundry. Sprayberry is no stranger to the newspaper - he was featured in a June 2005 article that began "Alcohol, trouble and Dennis Sprayberry have been fellow travelers for many of his 19 years." (Read it here.) He's now in a state prison serving 116 months on charges connected to a case you can read about here.

Two other inmates, Michael C. "Temper" Painter and Maggie Mae Tyler (left), "prove that love in lock down is still possible," the show's announcer said. Painter, who the show said is facing life in prison, likely under the state's three-strikes law, is shown trying to talk with Tyler through the jail's plumbing system. One downside to the method, he says, is "you can taste other people's fecal matter." (Read about Tyler's case here.)

The show stuck a nice balance between incarcerated citizens and the guards charged with maintaining control. I'll let you know if I hear about it airing again.

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