Spokane County’s list of 10 possible sites for a new jail has an unofficial No. 11: the state’s Pine Lodge Corrections Center in Medical Lake.
The women’s prison is among several that Gov. Chris Gregoire singled out earlier this month for possible closure in an effort to help offset the state’s $2.6 billion shortfall.
County officials have their own budget problems and need to replace the Geiger Corrections Center, so they’re interested in acquiring Pine Lodge. A county delegation plans to tour the facility soon.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said in an interview that he’s been told a final decision on which facilities the state will close should come in March.
County officials noted Tuesday that the city of Spokane also is interested in Pine Lodge, and that the state may not be prepared to turn it over on terms the county could accept.
Lt. Mike Sparber, manager of the county’s jail expansion project, told commissioners Tuesday that Pine Lodge has about 350 beds – 100 fewer than Geiger’s current population.
Sparber said the county would have to acquire all of Pine Lodge, plus land for expansion, to meet its needs the next 25 years.
But Spokane County lobbyist Mike Burgess said state officials are talking about continuing to use Pine Lodge while perhaps renting out some of its cells.
Sharing the prison, especially at more than a nominal charge, isn’t a viable option for the county, Sparber said.
Even so, County Commissioner Mark Richard didn’t welcome the prospect of competition from the city of Spokane.
“We ask them to respect the reality of a regional system as we go forward,” Richard said.
The city doesn’t necessarily need a prison, although it wants space for criminal justice programs that might include work-release incarceration. Spokeswoman Marlene Feist said city officials began exploring Pine Lodge options only recently and didn’t learn of the county’s interest in the prison until a reporter called for comment Tuesday.
Feist said the city hopes to establish its own version of work-release, electronic home monitoring, community corrections and outpatient substance-abuse counseling programs the county quit offering last month because of budget cuts.
“These are very effective programs for the city” to deal with misdemeanor offenders, Feist said. “We are looking at the Pine Lodge facility to kind of preserve our options.”
She said the city plans to launch a day-reporting program next month in conjunction with various government and private organizations. The program will teach work skills, financial planning, stress management and other “basic life skills,” Feist said.
The first classes will be in meeting rooms of the city’s downtown library.
A pilot electronic home monitoring program will follow in the second quarter of this year, Feist said. Also, she said, the city is working with the state Department of Corrections on a work-crew program.
The city is open to partnerships with the county and other cities as well, Feist said. But she said the city “absolutely” has no interest in setting up its own jail.
“We don’t see ourselves in competition with the county,” she said. “I think we see ourselves as partners with the county in many ways.”