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Eastern WA State: An Overview of Prison Expansion News

Geiger Soon To Get Kootenai County Inmates

Plan Eases Idaho Crowding, Provides Income In Washington

By Erica Curless, Spokesman-Review, March 28, 2007

Kootenai County will pay Geiger $61.40 per inmate per day, compared with $50 for inmates housed in Ferry County, Wash.

Within the next month, Spokane's Geiger Corrections Center will start taking inmates from Kootenai County.

The Kootenai County commission approved a contract Tuesday that seals the bistate agreement touted as a way to ease overcrowding in Kootenai County while lowering costs for Spokane County.

"I think it's great any time counties can work together," commission Chairman Rick Currie said. "We are all in this together."

Kootenai County Jail Commander Travis Chaney said Geiger will set aside as many as 30 beds for male inmates. Kootenai County will pay $61.40 per inmate each day to house sentenced offenders at Geiger.

The county already has an agreement with Ferry County, Wash., where it pays $50 a day to house inmates.

Kootenai County will continue to send inmates to the Ferry County Jail, which is about 180 miles from Coeur d'Alene. Geiger will house inmates serving shorter sentences.

"It gives the Sheriff's Department some flexibility," Chaney said.

As of Tuesday morning, the 325-bed Kootenai County Jail housed 320 inmates in addition to 34 inmates who were primarily in Ferry County, Capt. Ben Wolfinger said.

Geiger, which houses minimum- and medium-security inmates, is run by Spokane County and is supposed to be self-sufficient by charging daily rates -- lower than the Spokane County Jail's -- to jurisdictions to house offenders. But 2006 was the first time in five years that Geiger fully supported itself through inmate fees. In the five years before that, Geiger lost $1.8 million.

Most of Geiger's population, which is a maximum of about 610 inmates, comes through the Spokane County Jail. The center also has contracts to house female inmates from the federal prison system and state parole violators.

Bi-state effort answer to jail overcrowding

By William McCrory, Special to The Spokesman-Review, March 2, 2006

Both Spokane County and Kootenai County experience jail overcrowding and want to build bigger jails. Spokane County's could cost from $81 million to $410 million while Kootenai County estimates its jail expansion might cost as much as $50 million.

State, local and tribal leaders from Idaho and Washington and from Kootenai and Spokane counties should discuss creating a regional criminal justice center near the Idaho- Washington border. A regional center with facilities for public safety training, state correctional programs, a combined post-conviction jail, emergency management and community education is ripe for consideration.

Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk has proposed building a regional law enforcement training center between Spokane International Airport and Fairchild Air Force Base at an estimated cost of $75 million to $100 million. North Idaho has no reasonably accessible and fully equipped training center for local and tribal law enforcement officers.

One element of Sterk's proposal -- certification training for civilian bomb technicians -- would draw students from other parts of the United States, because the only other certification school is in Huntsville, Ala. That would be a revenue producer for area businesses.

In 2002 Kootenai County rejected an Idaho Department of Correction effort to put a state transition/work release center in Kootenai County. Regional leaders should reconsider that proposal. Putting a community work center, a correctional alternative placement program or both on a regional criminal justice campus makes fiscal and security sense.

It also offers correctional training and education opportunities for both criminal justice practitioners and the community. Corrections is as important as law enforcement, juvenile justice and the courts, but educating the public about corrections has been neglected.

Assessing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Sept. 11 commission noted: "Imagination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies." Though the commission was directing its criticism primarily at national-level agencies, public safety officials know that the first responders to emergencies will always come from nearby local agencies regardless of the emergency's size or national implications. Imaginative planning begins when political boundaries are not barriers.

Building on that understanding, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Police Foundation collectively conducted " a project to help position state, local and tribal agencies to proactively manage a changed and continually changing police environment."

Last September, the project released a 62-page study, "Post 9-11 Policing: The Crime Control ­ Homeland Security Paradigm." It acknowledged that new and stronger regional relationships improve interoperability, information exchange and training, which then prepares public safety agencies to deliver more timely and efficiently coordinated services.

The project also produced four promising practice briefs. One of them was a 48-page publication in which the participants recognize that multi-jurisdictional partnerships can have benefits far beyond counterterrorism preparation. The study notes: "Moreover, regional mutual aid agreements can be tailored to meet specific needs, address likely threats and make available the full range of existing resources that can be brought to bear quickly in times of emergency."

Funding is a prominent issue among all agencies. The project participants seemed to suggest that multi- jurisdictional partnerships, not just mutual aid agreements, can result in a greater return on investment for the taxpayer's dollar.

If the Sept. 11 commission and the post-Sept. 11 policing reports were a nudge toward multijurisdictional partnerships, then the report of the Senate Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina was a bulldozer. In its preface, the committee notes: "Government failed because it did not learn from past experiences, or because lessons thought to be learned were somehow not implemented.

If Sept. 11 was a failure of imagination, then Katrina was a failure of initiative. It was a failure of leadership." The report concludes: "This was not about some individual's failure of initiative. This was about organizational and societal failures of initiative. There was more than enough failure to go around."

The Spokane-Coeur d'Alene region has an opportunity to use the challenges of jail overcrowding to improve the quality of not only the region's criminal justice system but also our ability to respond to natural and manmade disasters and attacks. It is an opportunity that should not be wasted.

The first step is for government and community leaders to meet and talk. As Albert Einstein said, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

Watson to pitch regional jail idea

By Erica Curless, Spokesman-Review Staff writer, December 12, 2006

Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson is still pitching his idea to build a jail for sentenced inmates on county property next to the landfill south of Coeur d'Alene near Fighting Creek.

Yet he's also looking at other solutions for jail overcrowding, including working with Spokane County to build a regional jail.

Watson plans to have lunch Wednesday with newly elected Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

Watson wants to talk about everything from mutual aid agreements and collaboration for a training center to the idea of a regional jail.

"Criminals don't respect the state line, why should we," Watson said Monday while at the groundbreaking for the county's new trash transfer station west of Post Falls. "Interstate 90 is a crime corridor."

Both Spokane and Kootenai counties have overcrowded jails, as do many other counties in the region.

Spokane County leaders are debating whether to build an $80 million jail addition or a $450 million complex near Spokane International Airport.

Last fall, Kootenai County voters rejected a $50 million jail expansion and county leaders opted against putting a similar $55 million sales tax proposal to expand the jail on the November ballot.

Capt. Jerry Brady, the Spokane County jail commander, said the regional jail is a preliminary idea. If it gains momentum, the first step would be to hire a consultant to figure out how big the regional jail should be -- perhaps 4,500 beds -- and to determine the best way to pay for it. It's possible both Idaho and Washington could contribute in addition to the federal government, Brady said.

"There are just an awful lot of options," he said.

Watson is waiting for the two new Kootenai County commissioners to take office Jan. 8 before reviving his idea to establish a work farm at the landfill. He envisions a place where inmates could till the soil and grow food for themselves. The inmates also could work at the landfill, sorting garbage and recyclables.

The idea is to keep the majority of the inmates, who are still awaiting sentence and require frequent trips to the downtown courthouse, at the current jail on Government Way. The county would house the sentenced inmates ­ about 30 percent of the population ­ south of town at the work farm.

Watson wants the county to join with the four other northern counties, and perhaps the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, to house their sentenced inmates and share the cost of the facility and staff.

Jail swap floated

By Jonathan Brunt and Taryn Brodwater, Spokesman-Review Staff writers, January 12, 2007

Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich met last month to discuss the idea of building a regional jail to solve overcrowding in both counties. They agreed to examine the concept.

Inmates from Kootenai and Spokane counties may soon share space behind bars.

Geiger Corrections Center is offering to house up to 30 male inmates from across the state line.

The proposal has been touted as a way to ease overcrowding in Kootenai County while lowering costs to Spokane County.

"The more bodies we have, the lower the rates," Geiger Director Leon Long said. "The benefit for Geiger is to help us meet our budget needs."

Geiger, which houses minimum- and medium-security inmates, is run by Spokane County and is supposed to be self-financed by charging daily rates --lower than the Spokane County Jail's -- to jurisdictions to house offenders. But 2006 was the first time in five years that Geiger fully supported itself through inmate fees. In the five years before that, Geiger lost $1.8 million.

Spokane County commissioners are expected to consider a contract between Geiger and Kootenai County later this month.

Kootenai County Jail Commander Travis Chaney said leaders have been searching for other lockups "to house our burgeoning inmate population."

The 325-bed jail had 307 inmates in custody Thursday, with 26 additional inmates housed off-site.

Last year the county reached an agreement to house offenders in Ferry County, Wash. Chaney said the jail will continue to send inmates to the Ferry County Jail, which is about 180 miles from Coeur d'Alene. Geiger will be used for inmates serving shorter sentences.

Housing an inmate at Ferry County costs $50 a day. Kootenai County will pay $61.40 per inmate each day to house offenders at Geiger. Chaney said the county hasn't decided how many inmates it will send to Geiger.

Leaders in Spokane and Kootenai counties are looking for ways to build new jails to replace ones that are often at capacity. Geiger, meanwhile, usually has at least 50 beds open, Long said.

Geiger has a maximum population of about 610 but had just 486 inmates Thursday. To break even, the center needs to hold an average of about 580 inmates, said Chris Wiese, Geiger's finance manager.

Spokane County Jail Commander Jerry Brady said his jail sends as many inmates as it can to Geiger, but that many don't qualify because they require higher security.

Long said Geiger will reserve the right to deny space to Kootenai County if Spokane County needs the beds. Almost all of Geiger's population comes through the Spokane County Jail. The center also has contracts to house female inmates from the federal prison system and state parole violators.

Bi Case Study: Roanoke County, VA

Roanoke County Home Detention Program Stabilizes Jail Population

Jails are a visible and valuable component of a local criminal justice system. Nationwide, jail officials are managing increased demand with less public money available today. As a result, many jails are experiencing overcrowding, which can lead to a host of problems.

In Virginia, the Roanoke County Sheriff's Department took proactive steps in 2002 to help ease jail overcrowding, steps that are reaping benefits for jail staff, offenders, and taxpayers -- without sacrificing public safety. The Roanoke County Jail, located in Salem, Virginia, was built in 1980 and was designed to house 108 inmates.

Almost 25 years later, after modifications, the facility houses more than double the original capacity. After investigating solutions, the Roanoke County Sheriff's Department transformed a work release program into a home detention program for sentenced inmates â¤" individuals that would normally be incarcerated.

After researching its options, the department selected BI Incorporated for electronic monitoring (EM) technology. The department uses the BI HomeGuard 200® system, which includes a transmitter worn around the ankle, a receiver installed in the home, and a monitoring computer. Roanoke officials also use the BI Sobrietor®, a device that records alcohol breath tests from the offender's home and relays results via a phone line.

Used together, these technologies electronically supervise offenders for strict curfew schedules and sobriety. The program began with 20 EM units and 2 Sobrietors, but has grown to include 60 EM units and 8 Sobrietors. Typically, 30 offenders are involved in the program each day. Their participation in the program ranges from one month to two years.

The department recently incorporated BI ExacuTrack,TM a GPS tracking system, to monitor high risk individuals. Roanoke officials also created a monitoring team to manage an offender's schedule, community supervision, and compliance to this schedule. Roanoke officials purchased a BI GuardServer® monitoring computer, which records activity relayed from the home-based receiver.

If violations to the schedule occur, officials will arrest the individual and return them to the jail. This is a major component of the Roanoke County home detention program -- "strict accountability and a highly structured approach with swift consequences. To supplement the use of technology, officials perform random and scheduled in-home visits to inmates' residences.

Offenders are directed to the facility from six local courts. A key feature of the program is that all placements are made after recommendations by the Sheriff's staff. These officers perform detailed screens that include a review of a probation officer's pre-sentence investigation and a close examination of the individual and the offenses committed. Offenders included are nonviolent, typically convicted of petty larceny or alcohol-related offenses, and all must live within one hour of the monitoring center so officials can respond to alerts promptly.

The department also developed a specific database using off-the-shelf software to track payments, restitutions, fines, fees, and child support. Offenders pay for program services. Fees are $11/day for offenders on EM, while those on EM and Sobrietor pay $15/day. These payments help recoup costs of administering the program. As the population of the Roanoke County and surrounding areas increases, officials look to expand the program to meet a growing need.


  • The Roanoke County Home Detention program has achieved several of its original goals as it acts as a safety valve for the crowded local jail. In addition, many measurable results have been accomplished, including:
  • Every day, between 8% and 10% of the county's jail population is in the home detention program.
  • With 25 offenders in community supervision versus in jail every day, the savings to taxpayers, after costs, reached $270,000 last year.
  • More than 250 inmates have successfully completed the home detention program since it was formed in late 2002.
  • Less than 10% of offenders released to the program fail and are then returned to jail.
  • Offenders are being closely monitored for adherence to strict schedules with sophisticated technology.
  • The jail population has stabilized since the program was implemented, with more beds now available for serious offenders.
  • Close communication and partnership with local judges has resulted in appropriate candidates entering the program.
  • Offenders who are nonviolent and returned to community supervision are able to work, pay taxes, restitution, child support, and fees associated with the program.

"This is a valuable community program, with strict accountability that drives compliance." - Sgt. Brian Keenum

Copyright © 2002-2007 BI Incorporated. All rights reserved.

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