By Steven Sandberg
GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The doors open at the Josephine County Jail, and dozens of inmates are back on the streets. Budget cuts to the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office force it to let 39 inmates out of their cells. Those inmates were released early this morning from the Josephine County Jail.
With a $7.5 million dollar budget gap, the sheriff’s office knew it needed to make cuts; that means cutting jail staff, cutting jail beds, and letting criminals walk out. The jail doors were open about 10 this morning, and 39 inmates came pouring out; many were running out, meeting their ride or getting back to the streets of Grants Pass.
Jail officials say they tried to release the least violent offenders, or inmates with less severe crimes against other people. But many of the inmates released on Wednesday had charges ranging from fourth degree assault, third degree rape, robbery and drug possession.
“Letting go any criminal when they should be in jail or in the court system is unfortunate, but we had no other alternative based on our funding predicament,” says Undersheriff Don Fasching.
Jail officials said they chose to do the mass release today, because their staff will be reduced to 18 starting tomorrow. The jail will only have 60 beds, 30 of those are already reserved for federal contracts. Once the jail is full again, many suspects will be given a citation and released instead of being taken to jail.
Measure 11 offenders will still be lodged, but inmates with less serious charges would have to be released to make room. 21 of the released inmates are still sentenced to be part of a work crew. But the sheriff’s office says it does not know how many of them will actually show up.