Behind the divide on bail reform, frustration over ‘revolving door’

Behind the divide on bail reform, frustration over ‘revolving door’

(excerpt from The Spokesman Review - June 2 2019)


On the afternoon of April 27, Jordan Knippling emerged from his room at MultiCare Valley Hospital, kicked over a linen basket and grabbed a brand-new electrocardiogram machine.

Knippling had checked himself into the hospital saying he thought he had a broken rib. Agitated, the 39-year-old allegedly tried to throw the $30,000 EKG machine, but a nurse practitioner stopped him. According to court records, Knippling turned and threw several punches before nurses and security staff subdued him.

Knippling, who has an extensive criminal record, had been released from prison less than six months earlier after years of incarceration. After the incident at the hospital, sheriff’s deputies arrested him on suspicion of assault. He told Spokane County Superior Court staff he suffers from schizophrenia but hadn’t been taking his medications.

Four days after Knippling was taken into custody, then-Court Commissioner Steven Grovdahl ordered him released on his own recognizance. In other words, no bond was set, and Knippling simply promised to appear at his next hearing.

On May 10, Knippling was arrested again on suspicion of stabbing his roommate in the arm, shoulder, abdomen, back and neck. Hospital staff told a detective they had removed enough blood to fill a wine bottle from the victim’s lungs, but he survived. Knippling now faces an additional charge of attempted murder and remains jailed in lieu of a $1 million bond.

Incidents like this frustrate local law enforcement officials including Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who says Knippling should have been held in jail after the hospital incident.

Grovdahl could have imposed cash bail, which would have kept Knippling in jail unless he could afford to pay his bond or reach a deal with a commercial bail bond agency. And if Knippling were in jail, he couldn’t have stabbed his roommate.

Knippling’s back-to-back arrests, the sheriff says, exemplify a justice system that has become too lenient on violent offenders, including those with behavioral health issues, at the expense of public safety. In a recent interview, Knezovich said cash bail is a necessary tool for protecting the community and ensuring defendants show up to court.

“We’ve developed a system in our communities … where cloaked in the veil of being compassionate, we aren’t holding people accountable,” he said.

Complaints about the “revolving door” of the county jail are not new. But according to Knezovich, the problem recently has reached new heights.

“This has gone beyond property crimes now,” he said. “And it’s becoming deadly.”

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