AIRWAY HEIGHTS-- The Geiger Corrections Center will shut down because of budget shortfalls, according to officials in Spokane County.
KREM 2 News obtained an internal email from the Detention Services Commander in the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office that notified employees of Geiger's impeding closure. The email was sent out Friday.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich spoke with KREM 2. He said the option has been looming because of financial constraints and the city’s decision to house inmates elsewhere to reduce costs. The City of Spokane announced its need to move 50 inmates out of Geiger to save money last year.
Sheriff Knezovich said if the inmates move, it leaves the county without any other options.
“It's an extreme likelihood. Again, with the city's deficit that they're facing they have to close that gap. If they pull those 50 inmates, it causes roughly a $2 million to $3.2 million deficit for the county, and we can no longer afford to have two facilities,” he said.
Capt. John McGrath sent the email to Geiger employees. The memo echoes what Sheriff Knezovich said, stating, “After suffering through two other rounds of budget reductions in the recent past, we find ourselves backed into another corner.”
Geiger is currently used to house extra inmates to deal with overcrowding at the Spokane County Jail. As of this weekend, about 625 inmates are sitting in that facility. The 50 Inmates who leave Geiger will likely end up in a more cost-effective location like Benton County.
As for the roughly 80 Geiger staff members, their fate remains unknown, but it does look hopeful according to the sheriff.
“We're hoping we can pull them into the Spokane County Jail because the Spokane County Jail has lost nearly 20 to 25 employees over the last three years. We're running a shoestring staff over at that facility, so we're hoping to bring over employees from Geiger to make it a safer facility,” Sheriff Knezovich said.
The email from McGrath reads:
Dear Staff Members,
Since spending the majority of the morning talking with staff members at Geiger, I thought it might be helpful to send all of you this information so everyone can understand our current situation.
After spending the last six months in negotiations with the City of Spokane, they have decided to send a portion of their offenders to another county to reduce their incarceration costs. The impact of their decision to the County is, at a minimum, approximately $2 million. The General Fund cannot afford this additional debt.
After suffering through two other rounds of budget reductions in the recent past, we find ourselves backed into another corner. After meeting with the BOCC yesterday, it seems their only viable option to overcome this additional debt is to close Geiger Corrections. The option to close Geiger is in no way a reflection of you or your work. All of you at Geiger have worked diligently through every challenge, often with little fanfare.
Whenever I walk through Geiger Corrections Center, I can’t help but compare it to other facilities I’ve been in around this nation. Geiger doesn’t have a great design or the best technology. It’s old and its many years of abuse show through. But it is the best facility I’ve ever worked in. It is the best facility because it has something far more important than a good design, or the best technology or even new construction. Geiger has a great heart, and that heart comes from the men and woman who work there. You are all highly dedicated, compassionate professionals.
Over the past few years, it’s only because we were able to work together that we’ve been able to overcome our economic difficulties. There’s no doubt it’s been painful. While the immediate future is uncertain, we’ll need to work together to solve this issue. Please understand my number one priority is to collaborate with your union leadership on ways to minimize the impact to all of you.
I know you have many questions about what’s going to happen and timeframes. With this decision unfolding over the past couple days; I don’t have those answers right now. I felt it was more important to let you know what’s happening then wait for a complete plan to be developed. I will make myself available to you to answer your questions and address your concerns in the very near future as decisions are made.
Captain John McGrath
Detention Services Commander
Spokane County Sheriff's Office