Lane County, home to the University of Oregon and almost as big as Connecticut is facing the same problems as many other smaller counties. That problem is a lack of money. And in Lane County it has translated into setting jail inmates free.
According to The Oregonian, Sheriff Tom Turner watched many of them go last week; in groups of 30 they left the jail. Many of them were charged with drug offenses, but three were facing murder charges. They’ll all be given future court dates and the Sheriff hopes he chose the right ones—ones that will return when those dates come around.
Congress approved $100 million for counties in Oregon who need the money, but the $1.8 million that Lane County will get isn’t enough to keep the jail running at capacity.
“Space isn’t the problem,” said Turner, who has 152 beds available for local inmates. “It’s money. I have the place to put them. I don’t have the money to put them there. Because I don’t have the cash, I don’t have the personnel to watch them.”
In addition to letting inmates go, he’s also been forced to let employees go. Last week he said goodbye to 40 of them. Also in response to the lack of funding, county roads must be unpatrolled for six hours each day.
Turner isn’t the only one unhappy about the state of affairs; victims’ family members are also angry. One of the inmates turned loose (with an ankle monitoring device) was being held for a deadly hit and run accident. His victim’s father called Turner to express his outrage.
Turner could only commiserate and assure him that he wasn’t any happier with the situation.
In his defense, the Sheriff used a computer program when choosing who to let go. The program is designed to identify which inmates would be flight risks and which would be most likely to return for their court dates. The three murder defendants that were released are believed to post little risk to the community.
Turner says he now knows why no one ran against him in the race for Sheriff, that no one wanted to be in this position.
When you are charged with a crime, there is a chance that county budget issues could play a role in determining whether or not you are granted bail. A local defense attorney may also be able to help those matters. If you are charged with a crime, contact us today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.