(The Center Square) – A new group recently formed in opposition to an initiative increasing the Spokane County sales tax for expanding jail services has quickly amassed $500,000 in funding, primarily from two large donors.

On the ballot for Spokane County voters this November election is Initiative 1, which if approved would create a new .2% sales tax on purchases starting in April and ending in 2054. Of that revenue, 60% would be given to the county and 40% distributed to cities and towns within the county. A third of the revenue must be spend on “criminal justice,” while the remaining amount is to be spent on “criminal justice, public safety, or behavioral health purposes.”

The county is proposing to use its share of the revenue to expand the downtown county jail, while closing a correction center and moving inmates to a new, larger facility.

However, Justice Not Jails is opposed to the initiative because of its “reliance on jail expansion as the primary solution to address public safety concerns. While proponents argue that more jail space is needed to detain individuals who pose a threat to society, opponents contend that this approach is fundamentally flawed for several reasons. Focusing solely on jail expansion ignores underlying problems such as racial disparities, harsh bail policies, and limited access to mental health and addiction treatment.”

Instead, the group calls for spending on "holistic, evidence-based alternatives that prioritize rehabilitation and systemic reform."

As of its latest report, the political action committee has received six in-kind donations so far, while two donors, Empire Health Community Advocacy Fund and Inatai Foundation, have pledged $240,000. Empire Health Community Advocacy Fund has already donated $240,000 in in-kind contributions in the form of “Staff time Organizing and Budget Consulting.”

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