June 8, 2010 in City

Geiger’s mission changing

West Plains facility’s new focus will be transitional holding, treatment
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Geiger Corrections Center will soon become an interim version of the treatment-focused “community corrections center” that is to be part of a jail-construction bond measure next April.

Although Geiger will be available for overflow from the Spokane County Jail, its new mission will be to provide 144 beds for offenders who are nearing release. Jail officials already have started rearranging inmate populations to conform to Geiger’s revised role.

Inmates who are considered suitable candidates will receive a formal regimen of classes, substance-abuse treatment and other help in turning their lives around.

Topics will include parenting, relationships, anger management, budgeting and “Moral Reconation Therapy” to teach the difference between right and wrong.

The success of the plan “really all comes down to our partnership with the city of Spokane,” Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.

He intends to join forces with the city to restore a pilot corrections program that was curtailed by budget cuts last year after about six months of operation.

Now, the city – which started its own pilot program in February – is to handle out-of-custody rehabilitation programs while the county focuses on in-custody efforts.

Officials are putting the program together as they go, waiting for experience to help them develop long-term arrangements. But the idea is for each side to bill the other for services.

“We have common interests and common needs, and we looked at ways we could address those needs,” city General Administration Director Dorothy Webster said. “I’m optimistic that this can work if we can find the financial resources to manage it.”

In the beginning, Knezovich and Webster hope to demonstrate success with available resources.

Knezovich said this month’s planned layoff of 67 corrections deputies was based on falling jail populations, and provides no savings for restoring community corrections programs.

Despite the layoffs and budget cuts last year that cut the pilot program short, most of the programs continued to be offered on a limited basis, Knezovich said.

“We’re going to try to restructure and do as much as we can with what we have left,” he said.

The pilot program was carved out of his existing budget, and Knezovich said that’s what he plans to do again, “but there’s going to be a point where we’re not going to be able to do that anymore.”

City and county officials envision a county program with 24 specialized employees and a $1.4 million budget and a city program with six employees and a $363,600 budget.

Initially, however, sheriff’s officials plan to rely primarily on existing corrections deputies.

They hope to restore and expand programs with other agencies such as job training by Goodwill Industries and Volunteers of America and housing assistance through the county Community Services Department.

Restoration of a county electronic-monitoring program also is on the agenda. But Lt. Mike Sparber, the sheriff’s jail project manager, said that is “a little ways off” because of the need to work out details with district and municipal court judges.

Another sensitive issue is the hiring of caseworkers to design treatment and training regimens for Geiger inmates. That work had been handled by 15 corporal/probation officers whose jobs were eliminated last year.

Because of union rules, only two of them managed to bump back into regular corrections deputy jobs, even though some of the 13 who were laid off had 20 or 30 years of experience.

Sparber said he plans to discuss the issue next week with the corporals’ union, but tentative plans call for recalling only one of the laid-off workers.

“What we don’t want to do is bring the program back and not be able to sustain it,” Sparber said.


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

Get stories like this in a free daily email