EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – The Lane County Jail is getting ready to release 131 inmates in the next month due to proposed budget cuts and for the first time ever, it may have to release some inmates accused of Measure 11 crimes.
Lane County's final budget picture is still being worked out, but with where things stand in mid-May 2012, the Jail is expected to cut 131 beds by the beginning of the next fiscal year, July 1st, 2012.
The cut will likely force the release of inmates accused of some of the most serious and violent crimes on the books in Oregon. Each one of the beds to be cut represents an inmate.
For a recent budget committee hearing, Lane County's Jail Commander Captain Greg Fox made a list of the 131 offenders that would be released (at the time the list was made) with the budget cut. Those in the Lane County Jail are either being held before their trial or for a sentence.
One of the inmates to be released is accused of attempted murder. Several others are facing sex abuse, manslaugter, assault, robbery and other "violent felony" charges. Of all of the inmates, 13 on the list were accused of Measure 11 crimes. More than 20 were considered “violent” offenders.”
Lane County releases inmates based on what's called a "public safety risk assessment tool,” or a computer program that evaluates the offender's risk to the public. The program uses varying factors to determine who should be released, including current charges, criminal history, their failure to appear in court ratio and more.
With proposed cuts, Lane County would be down to 220 total beds. 100 of those beds are paid for through contracts by the Federal Government, who uses them for law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Marshals.
Only 120 of the total 220 beds would be for local misdemeanor and felony offenders in Lane County. 120 beds is the total number of jail beds the county will be able to afford.
"It frustrates me not being able to hold people accountable,” says Capt. Fox.
“After we close an additional 131 (jail beds,) a very high majority of the people we're forced to release, according to this risk assessment tool, will be considered to be dangerous,” says Capt. Fox.
“We simply turn them loose with a court date to appear for their court date. A high percentage of them fail to appear, so there's a warrant issued for their arrest, and that just sort of starts this revolving door system,” says Capt. Fox.
If the current budget proposal is adopted, the Lane County Jail would begin releasing the 131 inmates likely over a ten day period in June 2012.
Between July 1st, 2011 and March 31st, 2012, Lane County released nearly 3,300 inmate from custody due to a lack of jail space.
County Commissioners are still evaluating the current budget proposal. More money could be pulled from other county departments to help the jail, but so far, no changes have come to light.