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Spokane County Jail, DOC to continue negotiations under 1-month contract

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 2, 2020

An employee of the Philadelphia Macaroni Company, the site of a recent coronavirus outbreak, was arrested twice on suspicion of driving under the influence in a one-week span. His cellmate at the Spokane County Jail and six police officers were quarantined as a result. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
An employee of the Philadelphia Macaroni Company, the site of a recent coronavirus outbreak, was arrested twice on suspicion of driving under the influence in a one-week span. His cellmate at the Spokane County Jail and six police officers were quarantined as a result. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

People arrested for probation and parole violations will continue going to jail in Spokane County, at least until the end of January.

The Spokane County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a one-month interim contract with the state Department of Corrections, replacing an old contract that expired Tuesday.

“It’s just an opportunity for us to sit down with them and negotiate over some of our concerns,” said Mike Sparber, director of Spokane County Detention Services.

The county previously warned it would stop jailing people for probation and parole violations unless the DOC agrees to increase its reimbursements to the county. That change would not apply to anyone arrested on new charges.

Sparber has said 20 to 30 people are booked into the downtown jail each day on DOC warrants for probation or parole violations. Some of those cases also involve new charges.

Under the interim contract, the DOC agreed to pay the county $89.95 to hold an inmate for one day. The total cost of a day in the downtown jail averages about $134.

County officials have been asking the DOC to pay more, primarily to cover the cost of treating inmates for opioid and alcohol withdrawal.

Sparber has said jail nurses are reluctant to have inmates transported to a state prison if they are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms – which can be deadly – so they keep some inmates at the jail to complete treatment regimens.

During Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, Sparber said the DOC had requested a six-month contract extension, but he and county CEO Gerry Gemmill wanted to speed up negotiations and opted for the one-month term instead.

The county and the DOC are scheduling negotiation meetings.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to continue efforts to find a solution that addresses the identified challenges and protects community safety,” DOC spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie said in an email.

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