EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Low revenues from the U.S. Marshals Service is forcing the Lane County Sheriff's Office (LCSO) to make another cut to the jail, reducing the number of beds for local offenders again.
The Sheriff’s Office made the announcement on Wednesday, October 31 in a Lane County Board of Commissioners meeting. The Sheriff’s Office will close another section of the jail by December 1 because it’s not getting as much money as it expected from the U.S. Marshals Service.
In its most recent budget, LCSO projected that the U.S. Marshals Service would rent about seventy beds from the Lane County Jail each month of the 2013 fiscal year, from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. According to Sheriff Turner, that was a low estimate, as the jail has typically held about 85 Federal inmates in years past.
In the first three months of this fiscal year, the Sheriff’s Office has only had about fifty beds for Federal inmates each month.
Since the Sheriff’s Office is paid by the U.S. Marshals Service for each inmate it houses, with fewer inmates the Sheriff’s Office receives less money. Reduced U.S. Marshals bookings leaves the Sheriff’s Office with a projected $500,000 to $800,000 budget gap for the jail.
"It isn't unanticipated that we might have had to make a cut like this. It's just unfortunate and regrettable that we have to do this,” said Sheriff Tom Turner in an interview with NewsSource 16 on Wednesday.
The budget gap leaves the Sheriff’s Office without enough money to keep enough staff to run the jail’s intake wing. Because of that, the Sheriff’s Office is closing the entire 35-bed intake wing. The closed beds break down into seventeen for local offenders and eighteen beds for Federal inmates.
"This is a very quick opportunity for us to see how tenuous this is . . . there's a lot of fragility in the way that this [budget] is built. Well, we're getting a taste of that now where we're getting to see, boy, any little adjustment and you know . . .we have big problems,” says Sheriff Turner.
Along with closing the intake wing, three deputies are also being laid off. Other layoffs were avoided by resignations and early retirements.
The Lane County Jail now has 135 beds for local offenders. The Sheriff's Office says it would have to add 491 beds just to be on the Oregon county jail average.
Commissioners are trying to figure out if they can get extra money to cover the budget gap. The only likely option they have is using the most recent one-time timber payment that rolled through Congress in 2012. That money hasn’t even arrived in Lane County yet. Commissioners were also planning on saving it to cover next year's projected $2 million county budget gap.