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Marijuana

Knezovich makes points in debate over new jail

Fri., May 20, 2011

Call it the Dueling PowerPoints.

Spokane’s downtown Rotary 21 club got the opening salvo April 29 when Robert Boruchowitz, a Seattle University law professor, made the case for diversion programs instead of another county jail.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich fired back Thursday with a presentation that lifted one of Boruchowitz’s PowerPoint slides and skewered it with a flourish.

Knezovich’s version of the slide added a half-dozen statistical corrections.

The errors would have been apparent to anyone who looked closely at Boruchowitz’s PowerPoint on behalf of the No New Jail coalition. The slide show included a pie chart, prepared by Spokane County consultant David Bennett, that belied Boruchowitz’s summary of the data.

“I made a mistake,” Boruchowitz said Thursday in a telephone interview. “I didn’t become a mathematician, and there’s probably a good reason for that.”

Knezovich also disputed Boruchowitz’s assertion that “about 48 people a year” are jailed for marijuana possession, at an annual cost of $228,125.

The sheriff said 117 people have been arrested so far this year on marijuana charges, but the marijuana counts were accompanied by other charges in all but 18 cases. He said 17 of those were released within 24 hours and one was jailed for 48 hours – for a marijuana-only cost of $2,340.

“We just don’t arrest people for misdemeanor levels of marijuana and hold them in jail for long periods of time,” Knezovich said.

Boruchowitz’s acknowledged errors cut both ways.

He said only 27 percent of jail inmates awaiting trial in 2010 were charged with crimes against persons, but 48 percent actually were charged with violence.

Score one for Knezovich.

On the other hand, Boruchowitz stated incorrectly that 25 percent were charged with property, drug, traffic or “public order” offenses (trespass, drunken nuisances, public urination and prostitution).

The correct total was 40 percent, which better supports Boruchowitz’s point.

“It looks like even more people are in the categories that I suggest would benefit from diversions,” he said. “And I think the basic principles that I talked about and that I otherwise have in the PowerPoint remain accurate.”



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