The Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission has released 58 pages of recommendations for getting better bang for the bucks that go toward cops, courts, jail, probation and treatment.
The three-member commission, appointed a year ago by the Spokane mayor and county commissioners, issued the recommendations Thursday following a lengthy examination of the system.
“Through this process it has become clear to us that the regional criminal justice system in Spokane holds many strengths,” the commission said in its report. “Yet, it is also in need of systematic and collaborative reform.”
Nearly 70 percent of Spokane County’s general fund budget is spent on criminal justice, and that doesn’t count the money spent by Spokane and other cities.
“City Council and County Commissioners are encouraged to recognize that the recommendations put forward in this proposal are considered first-steps in a long-term strategic plan,” the report says.
The commission suggested a five-year implementation.
Many of the proposed changes involve getting offenders out of jail and into programs that will help them restore their lives.
The commissioners also recommend ending duplicated services, implementing new efficiencies and greater multiagency cooperation.
They say the changes should be tried before elected officials seek funding for a new jail. But a new community corrections center to house offender programs should be pursued, the report says.
Commission members James Murphy, Jim McDevitt and Phillip J. Wetzel wrote that “we approached our task humbly and with the utmost respect for the hundreds of professionals that work in our regional criminal justice system.”
Their findings were applauded by some proponents of change.
Mary Lou Johnson, attorney for the Smart Justice Spokane coalition, said in an email that she believes the commission has come up with a “structure that is designed for successful reform.”