PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In a reaction to the major budget cuts proposed for Multnomah County, Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler believes the cuts to be counterintuitive.
The cuts, implementing the Oregon Legislature’s budget approved in July, will be voted on Thursday. As planned, they’ll lead to shutting down 73 out of the county’s already low number jail beds, and elimination of about two dozen positions. It’s unclear how many people will be laid off.
The changes are the result of cuts adopted by the state combined with over-optimistic budgeting by the county, officials said. The county board had adopted its own budget expecting state community corrections funds to grow by $2.3 million, accounting for increases in the cost of labor and other services.
Sickler said these cuts would affect the very programs designed to reduce county jail and state prison populations, a goal that has been promoted by state officials in recent years.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese told the Oregonian that the cuts will result in a 6% reduction in the Multnomah County jail capacity, leading the jail to hit 95% capacity daily. Reese referred to this probability as “catastrophic.”
Sickler, however, said this is already a reality at Jackson County Jail and has been for years. He stated their jail operates above 95% capacity every day. Jackson County had 5300 forced releases in 2018, compared to Multnomah County’s reported 186.
Without making light of Multnomah’s own hardships, he said a “lack of jail space is clearly the weak link in our system.”
Sickler said he and his office will continue to work with community partners to work with the limited space they have.
KOIN 6 News will continue to cover this story.