Lawmakers Aim To Stop Second Chance
A Spokane Valley legislator wants to shut out Second Chance.
Rep. Mark Sterk co-sponsored a bill Wednesday that would prohibit state business “of any kind whatsoever” with the operator of two workrelease centers in Spokane.
Second Chance, a private nonprofit based in Seattle, has about $7 million in contracts to run state work release centers in Spokane and Seattle and a juvenile boot camp at Connell.
“We’ve had report after report after report of Second Chance clients who, while under their custody, have committed other crimes, including homicide,” Sterk said. “My question is, how accountable is Second Chance being held?”
Co-authoring the bill is Rep. Ida Ballasiotes, whose daughter, Diane, was murdered in 1989 by a man who escaped from a Second Chance facility in Seattle.
Legislators vowed to come down hard on the company last summer, when David Daniel Dodge escaped a West Side facility and raped and murdered a 12-year-old baby-sitter in Stanwood.
“My goal in this whole thing is not necessarily to shut Second Chance down,” Sterk said. “I want them to tighten their controls. I hope they will listen to our case and change what they’re doing.”
Among the criticisms: Second Chance employees are paid minimum wage and are undertrained, and they don’t adequately supervise inmates.
Sterk wants rooms searched for drugs and alcohol. He also wants the siting of work release centers to be scrutinized more closely.
Bruce Kuennen, chief of operations for Second Chance in Eastern Washington, said Wednesday he was providing legislators with information rebutting the critics. Second Chance counselors, he said, earn nearly $10 an hour and everyone in the company, including cooks and maintenance workers, earn more than minimum wage.
He said corrections counselors are trained at the same work-release academy - a three-week course in Burien - that employees in similar state jobs attend.
Sterk, who is running for Spokane County sheriff, has sympathized with neighbors who sued Second Chance to prevent it from opening a work-release center for men in the Brownstone Building at Third and Browne.
Among the opponents were small business owners and parents whose children attend Dynamic Christian Academy.
Sterk echoed their concerns over sex offenders being admitted to the center.
“That makes me nervous, it makes me frightened. I mean, the new one in Spokane is two blocks from a day care.”
Sheriff John Goldman and Police Chief Terry Mangan supported the move into the Brownstone. City zoning codes do allow Level 1 sex offenders - those deemed least likely to re-offend - to live there.
Second Chance has operated programs in Washington since 1978 and in Spokane since 1988. The Brownstone accepts men who are in the last six months of their prison sentence. Offenders are required to work, pay room and board, and remain drug- and alcohol-free.
“We are constantly undergoing checks and balances and audits for the state in all of our contracts,” said Second Chance spokeswoman Laura Blaske. “There is no evidence to support this type of bill. No evidence to suggest we have not always met or exceeded our contract requirements.”
Dave Savage, deputy secretary of the state Department of Corrections, said Second Chance has “done a reasonably good job of meeting contract standards and changes we required them to provide.”