Spokane County in Eastern Washington is the home of Spokane, the state’s second-largest city, and is a business and trade center for a vast area east of the Cascade Mountains. The county has experienced a 40% increase in population since 1981.
Spokane County Detention Services operates the county jail, and along with the Office of the Criminal Justice Administrator, is the lead agency for the Safety and Justice Challenge work. Since 2012, as part of a broad effort to implement the recommendations of a city and county-commissioned “Blueprint for Reform,” Detention Services has been working with members of a multi-stakeholder Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council to improve services and increase efficiencies across law enforcement, courts, and corrections. To continue building on past reform efforts, Spokane County was awarded $1.75 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in strategies that will further reduce the average daily jail population over the next three years.
The long term vision behind the county’s reform plan is to create a local justice system—starting at the point of arrest all the way through community supervision—that places a greater focus on risk and needs, rather than the offense. This will include: 1) an increased focus on risk assessment, community supervision and treatment; 2) new prosecutor diversion alternatives; 3) improved jail-based mental health intervention; and 4) measures to reduce racial and ethnic disparities. For example, the county will create and apply a Racial Equity Toolkit, which will identify root causes and factors that result in racial or social inequities in the system, such as bias in process, lack of access, or barriers that result in disparate impacts. In addition, the county will help reduce admissions and length of stay for people in jail who are affected by serious mental illness by adding mental health professionals and social workers who will help coordinate services with the courts, provide quicker linkage to community services and housing, and note cases back before the court expeditiously for release review.