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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane City Council mulls endorsement of racial equity in criminal justice system

The Spokane County Jail.  (JESSE TINSLEY/Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane County Jail. (JESSE TINSLEY/Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane City Council will consider a resolution on Monday that would call for racial equity in the criminal justice system.

Although nonbinding, the resolution would lay out the city’s template for criminal justice reform, prioritizing efforts that reduce crime while emphasizing opportunities for diversion from jail and rehabilitation for defendants.

That includes limiting pretrial incarceration whenever possible and increasing investments in housing and behavioral health treatment.

The council’s vote will come just weeks after Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell balked at the inclusion of racial equity in the same set of guiding principles for the local criminal justice system under consideration by the Spokane County Board of Commissioners.

The recommendations were outlined earl

ier this year by a county task force consisting of elected leaders, community members, and activists who were tasked with proposing criminal justice reforms.

Last month, Haskell warned County Commissioners that embracing “racial equity” could “adjust the scales” of justice. His comments drew pushback from leaders in communities of color and members of the task force.

Beyond racial equity, the City Council’s resolution calls for “equity across all identities.”

Although the task force’s recommendation was for the county government to adopt guiding principles for reform, Council President Breean Beggs sponsored the resolution, which states the city also has a role to play in the criminal justice system.

The county’s Justice Task Force made its recommendations after nearly a year of review that included several community meetings and input from stakeholders, such as jail employees and incarcerated people.

Adam Shanks can be reached at (509) 459-5136 or adams@spokesman.com

More on racial equity commissioners state their case The full text of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners’ equity resolution. News, 5

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