January 31, 2010 in City

Doug Clark: In this fight, leaders take no prisoners

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Seems like every bureaucrat in the region has come down with a gibbering case of Hoosegow Fever.

Spokane city leaders, Spokane County commissioners, police officials, current one-term mayors. … They’re all scrambling to solve our jailhouse overload crisis.

It’s no mystery why we’ve run out of cell space.

Lowlifes continue to be the area’s one last growth industry.

And I’m not just talking about the new Spokane City Council. The numbers of actual criminals have exploded, too.

Just the other day, in fact, two women were arrested for pilfering panties and sexy costumes from a Spokane Valley adult superstore.

According to the report, employees watched as the shoppers left a trail of empty boxes yet paid for only one item. A cop later caught the women thong-handed with 200 bucks’ worth of purloined naughty wear.

I blame the recession for this. In happier economic times women would never stoop to sex-market shoplifting.

Bump-and-grind garb was obtained by good, old-fashioned means, like hard, honest work. Or turning tricks.

Today’s rising rate of grime has led to our jails being more impossibly packed than the McCarthey Athletic Center during a Zags conquest.

Take the Spokane County Jail.

Talk about overcrowded. Inmates now have to book cavity searches two weeks in advance.

Things are even sorrier over at Geiger Corrections Center, which is seedier than a meth cook’s double-wide and is destined for closure.

In the meantime, the joint is so crowded that guards have been leaving ladders out in the yard hoping some of the brighter felons will take the hint and leave.

It’s a penal pickle all right.

The latest chapter in the jail search soap opera centers on Pine Lodge, a women’s lockup in Medical Lake.

Pine Lodge was running so smoothly and efficiently that the state put it on a list to shut down. Ever since then, officials from both Spokane County and city have been eyeballing the prison like starving hyenas on a rump roast.

On Thursday, the Spokane County Commission was voting on whether to send a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire to express its Pine Lodge love.

I dropped in to see what was going on. The last time I left Todd Mielke and Mark Richard alone, they bought a racetrack with a lot of public money.

Unfortunately for me, only Commissioner Bonnie Mager was present.

Bummer. The commission without Mielke and Richard is like the Stooges minus Moe and Larry.

Well, technically Richard was there. The commissioner presided over the meeting via speakerphone from home.

Quite frankly, Richard’s disembodied voice emanating from a box on the conference table was, well, creepy.

They voted to send the letter. Big surprise.

It was all a classic example of governmental redundancy, of course. Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich had already sent their own Pine Lodge lust letter.

Too bad nobody told Medical Lake, which is now in a lather of municipal indignation.

I’ll say it again. Leave Pine Lodge alone. Having a women’s prison here is a fine idea. It allows inmates with ties to the area to be close to home.

But what to do about our jail situation? Baking a new prison from scratch takes a lot of dough.

Here’s an idea. The County Commission and city of Spokane can start writing to Papa John instead of Gov. Chris. I read the other day that the pizza chain was shutting down 12 outlets in the area.

Why not incarcerate inmates in those dozen empty stores? They would serve their time learning the fine art of making a tomato pie.

America’s first satellite Pizzatentiary.

Now that’s thinking outside the box.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


There is one comment on this story. Click here to view comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email