After a nationwide search for a new director to run Spokane County’s jail facilities, the county commissioners on Tuesday appointed a corrections official who has worked in the department for more than three decades.
The commissioners’ pick, Mike Sparber, has served as interim director of Spokane County Detention Services since February, when John McGrath stepped down after nine years as director. The department includes the downtown Spokane County Jail and Geiger Corrections Center on the West Plains.
“Mike has shown great leadership in his time as interim director,” Commissioner Mary Kuney said in an announcement. “He leads with dedication and compassion for our employees and the individuals within our detention services system.”
Sparber joined the county as a corrections deputy in 1988 and climbed the ranks as a sergeant, lieutenant and assistant director. According to the county, he is the first Detention Services director to be promoted to the position from within the department.
Geiger and the downtown jail were moved out of the purview of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office when the commissioners made Detention Services a separate department in 2013.
Sparber takes the helm of the department amid slow-moving efforts to reduce jail overcrowding and implement other reforms in the local justice system. He also has grappled with a spate of inmate deaths, some of which have been linked to contraband drugs. Among his goals is the installation of body scanners to detect and stop drug smuggling into the downtown jail.
Sparber serves on a number of criminal justice committees, including the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council, which is focused on reform efforts funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Eastern Washington University, an FBI leadership award and an executive certification from the Washington State Criminal Justice Commission.
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