March 3, 2013 in City

Clark: Giving commissioners keys to jails jangles my nerves

By The Spokesman-Review
 

So the Spokane County Commission (aka Larry, Moe & Shelly) will be taking administrative control of the county jail and nearby Geiger Corrections Center as of June 1.

I think I speak for a lot of area citizens by saying …

Oh, Lord! What could possibly go wrong?

Other than everything, I mean.

Sorry to sound so pessimistic. But watching the County Commission run that infernal Airway Heights racetrack into the ground season after season hasn’t exactly been a faith builder.

Plus, from my experience there’s no quicker formula for civic ruin than when government officials decide to do more.

We’d all be better off if Commissioners Todd Mielke, Al French and Shelly O’Quinn started adhering to the following schedule I’ve prepared.

9 a.m. – Arrive at courthouse.

10 a.m. – Milk and cookies.

11 a.m. – Nap time.

Noon – Lunch.

1 p.m. – Open mail.

2 p.m. – Go home.

Some of you more accountant-minded types may argue that under this plan we taxpayers would essentially be paying the commissioners to do nothing.

To which, I say …

Yeah, what’s your point?

You can’t get run over by a parked car.

I know I’m dreaming. By law, commissioners are the arbiters of millions of dollars. They have all sorts of decision-making powers. So being politicians, it’s only natural for them to want to spread their wings and inflict some real damage on the rest of us.

But this jail thing is especially worrisome.

Penology – not to be confused with a Larry Craig airport layover – is a demanding, complex and specialized business. There are so many things to learn.

Why, just boning up on how to conduct a proper cavity search can take months.

(Hint: Warm hands are a must!)

If it were up to me, I would beg these three Republicans to give up this jail pipedream and get involved in something they might be more successful at.

Teaching parrots to speak Portuguese, say.

Or why not have the commission take over the county’s pot business?

That actually has growth potential.

But I think we’re stuck here.

See, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich reportedly sold the commission on this jail takeover notion.

Sheriff Ozzie is one smart lawman.

Running our overcrowded, antiquated hoosegows has been his responsibility. So nobody knows more than the OZ about what a donkey-kick-size headache the jails are.

Pawning jail management off on the commissioners is genius.

It’s like getting a distant relative to buy your high-mileage, oil-burning ’87 Honda Civic with bald tires.

I realize there’s no going back now. But I wish the sheriff would have skipped the commission and talked to Spokane developer Ron Wells about running the jails.

Everything Wells touches is first class. And his plan to save and refurbish the crumbling Ridpath Hotel could easily be switched over to a new county jail.

A lot of the jail regulars are already hanging out just down from the Ridpath outside the bus Plaza.

Throw some bars up here and there, and those apartment micro-units he’s talked so much about could be turned into some pretty cozy cells.

It’s true that county commissioners run the jails in many other Washington counties.

But this is Spokane County. We don’t exactly specialize in law and order.

Murphy’s Law and disorder is more our thing.

But the commissioners have voted. On June 1, the jails will be theirs.

And despite all the drawbacks, I actually think Commissioner French would make a pretty imposing warden.

He’s a big guy. And if you dressed Al up in say, a straw hat with a billy club, he could be as menacing as Strother Martin, the guy who played Captain, the infamous prison chief in “Cool Hand Luke.”

I can hear Al facing the press after the first mass escape:

“What we’ve got here is failure to administrate.”

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 ordougc@spokesman.com.


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