Shutdown chokes funding for some county jails


ST. HELENS, Ore. (KOIN) — The federal government shutdown is taking a toll on some county jails in Oregon. 

At any given time, dozens of federal inmates are temporarily held at Columbia County Jail in St. Helens. Columbia County contracts with the United States Marshals Service (USMS) to hold those federal inmates and the county is later reimbursed by the federal government for the cost. 

It can be a good deal for the county. Each federal inmate costs Columbia County $93 a day to feed and house. Reimbursement from the USMS accounts for about 20 percent of the jail’s budget. 

But due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, federal funding is no longer being funneled into county jails and many USMS employees have been furloughed. 

The situation could soon force Columbia County Jail to make some tough decisions. 

Columbia County Sheriff's Office, Jan. 17, 2019 (KOIN) 

“We would have to pay our bills so we would look for ways to reduce costs,” said the jail’s commander, Captain Tony Weaver. “In a jail, that would mean housing less inmates. We are not going to put out local inmates if that source of funding goes away.” 

Meanwhile, Multnomah County spends around $128 on each of the roughly 120 federal inmates it holds each day. And, like in Columbia County, funding from the USMS has been halted. 

Multnomah County officials said current jail services can be maintained for the time being but not forever. Authorities said a solution will have to be reached with the USMS if the shutdown drags on much longer. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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