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Prisoner release program going well

Doug Clark
Doug Clark

Yet another prison inmate has wandered away from his work detail at the Spokane Interstate Fair.

Fair officials reacted immediately by changing this year’s theme from “Duck Into the Fair” to “Duck and Run.”

Talk about deja voodoo. This is the third time in six years that an inmate has pulled a “Shawshank Redemption” at the fairgrounds.

So it’s a blessing the fair ends today before the petting zoo gets ideas and makes a break for it.

The lam man this time is Daniel F. Murinko, former roomie at the Geiger Corrections Motel.

Murinko, 26, was last seen at the fair wearing blue pants and a maroon shirt with a corndog in each hand.

New accounts report that Murinko was given a suite at taxpayer expense after being arrested Sept. 9 on multiple charges of driving under the influence.

I hold no police rank. But based on that information, I would’ve ordered the Murinko manhunt to start at the Lions Club Beer Gardens.

There’s a larger issue here, namely, why has our fair become Spokane County’s version of “Escape from Alcatraz”?

Do we blame the scent of fresh elephant ears for making jailbirds a little stir crazy?

Do we blame carnies because, well, everyone always blames the carnies?

We certainly can’t blame the keepers.

According to them, the inmate work crew is a safe-and-sane operation that involves pairing the most trusted inmates with a supervisor to look the other way.

“It’s a low-risk program and that’s how they’re supervised,” said Geiger Lt. JoAnne Lake in our news coverage.

“They’re not chain gangs. They’re not high-risk offenders.”

Heavens, no.

Before ever being considered for Geiger’s “Win a Faircation” program, inmates are grilled about their character and trustworthiness.

GUARD – “Who wants to go to the fair?”

INMATES – “I do. I do. I DOOO!!!!”

GUARD – “Okay. But who’s gonna behave?”

INMATES – “I will. I will. I WILLLL!!!”

Once the top miscreants are assembled, they are transported to the fair and told to go pick up litter or help judge the gladiolas at the Floral & Fine Arts building.

For some inmates, however, the sudden exposure to fair freedom can seduce the senses.

The intoxicating whoosh of the Puke-a-Whirl ride. Salivary thoughts of deep-fried lard sticks …

INMATE 1 – “Hey, where you going?”

INMATE 2 – “Mary Lou’s Ice Cream, man. It’s better than crack.”

INMATE 3 – “Don’t forget to write.”

Last year, 46-year-old Robert E. Reed took a powder from his county fair work post. The Geiger inmate had time to pen his memoirs since it wasn’t until February before the law caught up with him.

And who can forget the exciting three-day search in 2009 for Phillip Paul?

For reasons that still baffle, trained Eastern State Hospital authorities determined that a paranoid schizophrenic who had butchered an elderly woman was the perfect candidate to join a field trip to the fair.

Meanwhile back at the Court House …

Spokane County commissioners are already planning for next year’s escape by asking staffers to prepare a new list of plausible denials.

In our news story, however, Commissioner Todd Mielke defended Geiger’s inmate work program as doing “a lot of good work in the community.”

For once, I must agree with Milkman.

Thanks to inmate work crews, parks are maintained, snow is removed and many lucrative overtime hours are added to the paychecks of those lucky duck cops on the escapee hunt.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.

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