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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Probation limitation irks official

A recent state Court of Appeals ruling could reduce supervision of certain drug-addicted felons once they have been released from jail.

And failure to provide supervised drug and alcohol treatment virtually guarantees those felons will commit more crimes, according to Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens.

He prosecuted Donald James Konshuk, one of the Spokane felons whom the Court of Appeals said the state Department of Corrections doesn’t have to supervise because of a bill the Legislature passed in 2003 to cut costs.

The Legislature eliminated probation supervision for felons given sentences of less than a year except for violent offenses, crimes against people and street-drug crimes.

Some judges believed they still had authority to continue ordering probation for other crimes. One of those judges was the Court of Appeals’ John Schultheis. While filling in as a Superior Court judge, Schultheis ordered drug treatment and a year of supervised probation for Konshuk.

Konshuk’s crimes, committed in March 2004, were second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree unlawful possession of explosives. He began his probation last September.

But the state Court of Appeals said Schultheis’ order requiring supervised probation was improper in Konshuk’s case.

Some of the crimes that the Legislature said no longer warrant supervised probation pose a significant threat to public safety, Stevens said.

“Donald Konshuk is a prime example,” Stevens said. “Unlawful possession of a firearm – that’s a very serious crime. And a drug-addicted felon is not a very good person to have a gun either.”

The Court of Appeals ruling means people who are sent to jail – as opposed to prison – can be supervised afterward if they were caught buying or selling drugs but often not for their drug-related crimes.

“These are nondrug crimes (for which post-release supervision is being eliminated), but it is clear that the problem is a drug addiction,” Stevens said. “If we are not treating the addiction, then we can expect that they will commit more property crimes.”

Konshuk is a case in point.

Although the Court of Appeals ruling eliminated Konshuk’s probation, he’s back in jail, awaiting trial Aug. 29 on a bail-jumping charge. Authorities say he failed to report to jail June 1 as ordered in another case in which he was convicted of second-degree possession of stolen property, possession of methamphetamine, theft of a firearm and two counts of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

If convicted of failing to report, Konshuk faces a standard range of 4 1/4 to five years in prison on top of the 1 2/3 years to which he already had been sentenced – and probation when he gets out.

If state legislators hoped to save money by eliminating probation supervision for nonviolent criminals such as Konshuk, they could be disappointed.

“It ends up being penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Stevens said.

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