HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) — Fully staffed, the Washington County Jail would have 140 corrections deputies to guard the inmates and provide courthouse security.

But it’s not fully staffed, not close. The Sheriff has 110 corrections deputies on the job. Focusing on corrections deputies who work only in the jail, there should be 118 — but there are only 88.

The jail has a maximum capacity of 572 inmates, but Sheriff Pat Garrett is only operating 448 beds (78% capacity.) Because of the staffing shortage, Garrett shut down another housing unit last week, the second one closed in a year.

“This really low staffing level means that we must temporarily reduce our capacity so we can align our operations with available staff,” Garrett told KOIN 6 News.

In 2018, KOIN 6 News toured the Washington County Jail during a similar staffing shortage. But a marketing campaign got the jail within one position of being fully staffed.

Then the pandemic hit.

In the past year, Garrett said 7 deputies moved out of state or changed careers, 6 became police officers, 4 transferred to become patrol deputies, 5 retired, 3 went to work closer to their homes, 3 didn’t make it through the probationary period and 2 didn’t measure up to the standards.

Garrett admitted not all crimes get booked into the jail.

Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, August 22, 2023 (KOIN)
Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, August 22, 2023 (KOIN)

“What we are booking are all felonies, all person A-misdemeanors, all sex crimes, all mandatory arrests — mostly around domestic violence — and then all warrants and driving under the influence if the officer or deputy cannot find a responsible person to sign for that intoxicated driver,” the sheriff said.

Once again, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is turning to a marketing campaign to shore up their staffing and cut burnout.

For starters: Washington County has the highest paid jail deputies in Oregon, starting at $74,600 a year with raises at six, 12 and 18 months. The Sheriff is also offering to pay moving expenses up to $7,000.

“It’s an incredibly amazing team of individuals to work with. They do a great job at keeping our communities safe,” Garrett said. “But look, it’s a challenging career and it’s been made a bit more challenging as a result of the pandemic, given the rates of substance use disorder, people detoxing.”

Other jails are experiencing related problems. The Multnomah County Jail recently stopped taking new inmates for 5 hours because of a lack of staff.