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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Criminal justice panel, others have openings

The Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council is looking for two community members interested in aiding efforts to reform the county’s criminal justice system. The group, responsible for evaluating and suggesting changes to the criminal justice system at all levels, is accepting applications through July 10. Applicants should have experience with the system in Spokane County, whether that be in the jails, the courts or with law enforcement, must have no pending criminal cases against them and must be a county resident. Those selected will work alongside county commissioners, judges, attorneys and law enforcement.

MacArthur Foundation grant will reduce jail crowding

Spokane County has been rewarded for its efforts at criminal justice reform, with the deep-pocketed MacArthur Foundation selecting the area for a competitive grant to reduce overcrowding at the aging jail. Spokane is one of 20 recipients nationwide of a $150,000 grant through the foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge program, aimed at reducing overcrowding in local jails. Jackie Van Wormer, a Washington State University professor who is heading the county’s Law and Justice Council, said the award is a testament to the work being done to reform the region’s system.

City, county shaping new justice job

Leaders from the city of Spokane and Spokane County are putting the finishing touches on a job description for the person who will head reform of the region’s criminal justice system, from the technology used in courts to the way repeat offenders are screened upon arrest. Among the issues that still need to be sorted is who will pay the salary of Spokane County’s criminal justice coordinator, expected to be between $105,000 and $115,000 annually. That person’s duties will require coordination with city and county courts, the prosecuting and defense attorney’s offices, the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department, the Spokane County Jail and all of the regional governments.

Symposium on tested, creative justice reform aims to maintain local momentum

Most communities would jump at a chance to reduce crime while keeping more people out of jail. Julian Adler is coming to Spokane to show them how it’s done. Adler is one of two keynote speakers at Spokane’s upcoming Smart Justice Spokane Community Symposium on Nov. 15 at the Gonzaga University School of Law. The symposium, organized by a coalition of local advocacy and community groups, will bring people together to talk about addressing root causes of crime and continuing to implement reforms in law enforcement.

Spokane County District Court candidates list issues

For attorney Chris Bugbee, the race for a Spokane County District Court judgeship is all about a 2013 report that suggested dozens of changes needed to be made to bring greater efficiency to the local criminal justice system. The report from the three-member Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission was critical of the District Court, saying it “lacked cohesion” and has been “unwilling to embrace needed reform.” It also said the court was “unconcerned with the costs of jail sentences and detention before trials and detention hearings.”

Panel begins work on ways to reduce region’s crime rate

Eight months after a blue ribbon panel submitted 58 pages of recommendations for criminal justice reforms in Spokane County, the leaders who are responsible for implementing the reforms went to work on Tuesday evening. The new Spokane County Law and Justice Council convened its first meeting after months of debate over who should sit on what is now an 18-member panel.

All of us share stake in Gerlach’s defense bill

How much should you and I pay for the defense of Gail Gerlach? A judge will hear arguments today over bills submitted by the legal team for Gerlach, the Spokane man acquitted of manslaughter after fatally shooting a fleeing car thief. These bills are significant, totaling $284,000, and they’ve raised the kind of response in some quarters that almost any financial question in government life does – the sense that it’s too much.

Spokane Police Department gains state accreditation, will reopen training academy

In what Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub called a “major step,” the city’s police department has gained accreditation with the state and will reopen its training academy. “We are becoming, every day, a better and better police department,” Straub said Thursday, flanked by Mayor David Condon, Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg and Sue Rahr, head of the state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission.

Spokane County law and justice council will start up again

Spokane County used to have a law and justice council that was supposed to work on improving the criminal justice system. The group was formed in 1992 and was made up of representatives from law enforcement, the courts and other parts of the system.

WSU instructor will head Spokane criminal justice reform efforts

Spokane County and city officials will hire a Washington State University assistant professor with expertise in criminal justice to lead the initial implementation of criminal justice reforms recommended by a blue-ribbon panel last winter. Jackie van Wormer is expected to be hired under a $26,000 yearlong contract to serve as project manager for instituting recommendations in the 60-page report by the three-member panel.

Spokane Community Court offers chronic offenders another chance

When Aubrey Shults landed in jail in January, it was the end of a long, sad slide. Her longtime boyfriend had left her, and Shults – a drug-addicted 38-year-old who has lived on Spokane’s streets since she was 14 – descended into a blizzard of self-destruction.

Geiger using reinstated electronic home monitoring program

Geiger Corrections Center on Thursday released its first inmate on a newly reinstated electronic home monitoring program intended to reduce costs of incarceration to taxpayers. The new monitoring program will be combined with a more sophisticated risk assessment and other in-house treatment programs to help offenders transition to productive lives.

Condon, Mielke back Regional Justice Commission proposal

Local officials are backing a key recommendation coming out of a yearlong study of the region’s criminal justice system: creating a Regional Justice Commission with a paid, professional administrator to oversee reforms. Spokane Mayor David Condon and Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke on Friday said they are moving ahead with criminal justice reforms recommended by the experts who conducted the study.

Spokane justice commission report complete

Now that the Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission has completed its yearlong report, top officials at Spokane County and Spokane City Hall are getting ready to sit down and decide which of its numerous recommendations to tackle first. County Commissioner Todd Mielke said he is going to meet with Mayor David Condon and members of the commission Friday to talk about the next steps.

Shawn Vestal: Merging city, county courts an idea whose time has come again

A former judge, former federal prosecutor and longtime local attorney have taken a close look at the region’s criminal justice system. The trio – dubbed the Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission – spent hours interviewing people in every phase of the system, from city courts to county courts to the jail. They scoured for problems and solutions. They praised programs they found effective and suggested a wide-ranging list of steps that might improve efficiency, reduce the expensive and ineffective warehousing of inmates in the overcrowded jail, and apply creative, evidence-based solutions to the way we dispense justice.

Spokane criminal justice reform ideas met with praise

Criminal justice reform ideas for Spokane drew positive reviews Wednesday evening from people knowledgeable about the system. The Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission last week released 58 pages of draft recommendations calling for sweeping changes focused largely on moving nonviolent offenders into alternatives to incarceration.