A recent poll from Change Research shows Spokane County voters strongly prefer investing in social services and treatment instead of a proposed 1,200-bed jail.

The poll, which was conducted in December on behalf of the Smart Justice Spokane coalition, found that 58% of respondents support increasing the sales tax by 0.2% to fund solutions like affordable housing, mental health and substance use treatment, job training and after school programs to reduce the jail population. In contrast, only 40% support increasing the sales tax by the same amount to fund a new 1,200 bed jail.

“This poll shows that a big new jail is dead on arrival with voters in Spokane, and that the Spokane County Commission should invest in alternatives to jail instead.” said Jim Dawson, the Spokane-based Program Director at Fuse Washington and a member of Smart Justice Spokane.

“What people need to turn their lives around is access to safe housing, treatment, and job training. Everyone deserves these basic human dignities and it’s the way we can reduce crime and address the racial disparities in our criminal justice system. It worked for me and the people we serve at Revive,” said Kurtis Robinson, Executive Director Of I Did the Time and Revive Center for Returning Citizens, a peer based reentry service provider for formerly incarcerated community members, and a member of the Smart Justice Spokane Executive Committee.

The county’s own Justice Task Force, as well as outside criminal justice experts, have urged the commission to focus on reducing the jail population. Investments in alternatives to incarceration have been shown to be more effective at improving public safety and much less expensive than building a new jail. Spokane County Commissioner Al French and Sheriff Knezovich have been pushing the county to propose a sales tax increase to fund a 1200 bed jail instead.

“As a member of the Justice Task Force it was disappointing to see these and other County elected officials ignore our recommendations for how to reduce the jail population. The county’s own experts confirmed that these alternatives are more effective and save taxpayers money over a big new jail. I hope they will work to implement the plan that was created and drive more resources towards affordable housing, treatment, and job training,” continued Robinson who served on that task force.

The questions asked in the poll were as follows:

“The Spokane County Commissioners are considering a proposition to increase its sales and use tax authority to fund the building of a new 1200 bed jail to replace the current county jail. This proposition would increase the sales tax by 0.2%. Do you support or oppose increasing sales tax by 0.2% to fund a new 1200 bed jail in Spokane County?”


“Instead of building a big new jail, some leaders in the community are proposing to invest revenue from a 0.2% sales tax increase in solutions proven to reduce crime and the jail population, such as access to affordable housing, treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, programs for youth, and job training programs. Do you support or oppose increasing sales tax by 0.2% to fund these new programs?”


Smart Justice Spokane is a broad coalition of over 30 organizations working together to end mass incarceration and eliminate racial disparities in our local criminal justice system.

Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane is a member of Smart Justice Spokane.