EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) - Lane County's budget has been approved and the actual cuts are now underway.
The Lane County Jail will be able to save about 35 of its beds but other departments within the jail were not so lucky.
Multiple wings of the jail have been completely eliminated. One of the wings includes a section called the "Sherman Center," a program that has proven successful in the past keeping inmates from returning to jail.
"These people aren't in jail. They're in custody. They're furloughed. The whole purpose of a furlough is to reduce overcrowding in the jail while still holding them accountable," explained Sergeant Dan Buckwald.
In the front of the classroom, along with the teacher, a computer monitors each student's actions. from the back, deputies watch over the room. If anyone becomes too out of line, they can go to jail or be kicked out of the classroom, neither of which anyone wants. Almost all of the people working to get their GED in the jail's program are happy to be there and will do anything they can to stay, including asking for an extended sentence.
Sergeant Dan Buckwald is the head of the defendant and offender management center. He told NewsSource 16 the program has had several success stories.
"We run into past offenders all the time," he said. "They look like you and I."
Sgt. Buckwald recalled running into a man at the mall who had served time, but went through the Sherman Center to complete his education, and later became a construction worker.
"It was an opportunity for these folks to come to the Sherman Center, three hours a day and work," he said.
The Sherman Center has been in operation for almost 30 years. It allows people serving time - low risk offenders - to participate in work crew and work in getting their GED.
The Sherman Center has allowed for more than 900 hours of instruction, 109 individual tests and 14 GED completions. In the last year, 236 people have taken part. In fact, the program has been so beneficial to some, people have asked for an extended sentence simply to continue learning.
"You know, we've had people almost in tears thanking us, thanking the sheriff, for providing this opportunity," said John Parrish, a volunteer instructor.
Parrish, along with Lane Community College, paired with Lane County Jail to make this program happen. Over the years, Lane County has been able to keep the price of the program down by negotiating with certain companies for deals. In all, the Sherman Center has costed the county $150,000 dollars a year.
"I think it comes down to cognitive skills and criminal thinking, what's right and what's wrong," said Sgt. Buckwald.
With additional education, a second chance - or possibly a first chance for some - less people return to Lane County Jail for crimes they've committed, according to Sgt. Buckwald.
Yet, it's not the lack of success nor is it the lack of instruction or materials for the Sherman Center, but the lack of money to keep it going. The jail is losing multiple deputies, including two from the five-man work crew. It means there won't be anyone to watch over the classroom during each day's morning and afternoon sessions.
"It's a shame it has to end," said Parrish. "A lot of people will be caught in that rut of not having the credentials to help them get a better job. They may turn to illegal means of making money, doing things that will land them back here."
Parrish said it's a joy teaching in the Sherman Center. He hopes the program will be reinstated sooner than later, something Sgt. Buckwald doesn't see happening due to the lack of money coming in the door.
"It's very needed," said Parrish.
The Sherman Center will close June 14th.