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County jail announces 10 more layoffs

Fri., May 28, 2010, 11:06 a.m.

Spokane County officials say they will lay off an additional 10 jail employees to offset budget shortfalls they attribute to a drop in the number of inmates.

The 57 employees already facing layoffs were notified May 18 and will lose their jobs June 16.

The 10 additional employees - eight at Geiger Corrections Center and two at the Spokane County Jail - were notified today and will be out of work July 16.

“This is an incredibly hard thing to have to do, and it isn’t pretty,” Capt John McGrath said in a memo to Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and corrections staff, according to a news release. “It’s as low as we can get and still operate the two sites safely.”

McGrath said he will review the budget and jail population monthly to see if other cuts are necessary.

The 57 layoffs include 30 corrections deputies at the Geiger Corrections Center – more than 40 percent of the deputies at the center. At the jail, 16 of 140 deputies will now lose their jobs.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has said his jail budget would have been $8 million in the hole by the end of year if county commissioners hadn’t approved the cuts.

The budget was based on the assumption that cities and the county general fund would pay about $120 a day to lock up an average of 930 inmates a day this year. But the actual average so far has been 768.

County officials couldn’t fully account for the reduction.

Knezovich said arrests are up 1 percent this year, but Prosecutor Steve Tucker said felony cases submitted by police and sheriff’s deputies are down 18 percent.

Knezovich attributed much of the reduced jail population to a program designed to speed up criminal cases. In that sense, he said, county officials were victims of their own success.

However, the “early case management” program faltered when budget cuts caused the prosecutor’s office to revert to its longtime practice of failing to charge many suspects within 72 hours.

Also, a companion community corrections program was scrapped because of budget cuts.

Spokane County will lay off 57 jail employees next month to offset a big drop in the number of inmates.

The employees were notified Tuesday evening, and formal layoff notices were to be distributed today.

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