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Hundreds of Unitarian Universalists protest new Spokane Co. Jail

KREM's Alexa Block said Unitarian Universalists Association leaders estimated there were about 1,000 to 1,250 protesters.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Unitarian Universalists Association held a rally in downtown Spokane on Thursday afternoon against plans for a new Spokane County Jail.

KREM's Alexa Block estimated that between 1,000 to 1,250 people took part in the protest based on how many people are attending the UUA's annual meeting. Block said the convention has 2,500 attendees and that UUA thinks about half were at the protest.

UUA oversees the Unitarian Universalist religious movement happening across the country. Most of the protesters were from around the country, Block said.

"It's a show of solidarity on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Unitarian Universalists from all over the country together to address the issue of potentially increasing the prison population in our community," said Unitarian Universalist Spokane Church Minister Todd Eklof.

The church champions social justice like LGBTQ rights, and racial equity. 

"They've come together in our little community to help us have a more powerful voice and remind us we all need to comes together," said Eklof.  

UUA does not support a new jail. Spokane County leaders are discussing plans for a new jail but have not realized a potential ballot measure that would fund such a project.

For local activists, the help is much appreciated. They hope the added voices resonate with county leaders. 

"It just fortifies what we have going on here, and ideas that we are sharing here, the beliefs we have here," said Angel Tomeo Sam with the Bail Project Spokane.

Spokane Co. leaders have also discussed expanding services offered to inmates, Block said.

Spokane County Spokesman Jared Webley sent a statement to KREM about the protests. Webley said the county is working with the Vera Institute of Justice to study criminal justice issues that will determine the future of the jail. The full statement reads:

"Spokane County and City are working together, with the support of Vera Institute of Justice and the JFA Institute, to study issues related to our jail and criminal justice system that will determine the future of our County jail. As a central component of this work, we have developed a Justice Task Force that includes government officials, law enforcement, business leaders, community members and services providers. This group met for the first time in May, and is scheduled to meet again in July. We anticipate a third meeting in the fall. This group will ultimately develop recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners regarding our jail's future. We also held two town halls in May, where roughly 120 community members shared their visions of a healthy and safe community. We look forward to hosting additional town halls in the coming months as we are working hard to ensure transparency throughout this process and community partnerships. The information gathered through these meetings will be synthesized and shared with the Task Force to inform their decisions."

RELATED: 'The Spokane County Jail needs to be revamped': Sheriff Knezovich weighs in on criminal justice reform

This is a developing story. We will continue to update this story with additional reporting.

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