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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Sheriff vows to fix inmate escape problem

From our archives, 100 years ago

Spokane County jailers were accused of letting as many as 30 prisoners out of jail before their terms were up.

In most cases, the prisoners were simply let out early because of faulty record keeping. Yet in other cases, prisoners escaped during trips to town or were simply allowed to “take French leave.”

The sheriff vowed that “this laxity should stop.”

Head jailer August Ilse said only two prisoners actually escaped while they were in his charge. The first was a “dope fiend” who got away while Ilse was escorting him downtown to “arrange a money matter.” The convict went to the toilet “and made his getaway through a back door.”

The other was a convicted opium smuggler who was allowed to leave the jail under escort, ostensibly to raise money by selling some horses. Ilse said the convict “jumped into the darkness of an alley” near First and Bernard.

“I feared to shoot at him lest I injure some innocent person,” the jailer said.

But why were these prisoners allowed to go into town to arrange “money matters”?

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Ilse had obtained “a government license” to sell the “prisoners tobacco, groceries and other delicacies.”

The sheriff immediately put a stop to that practice.

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