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Jackson County's Jail Problem

The Jackson County Jail is over capacity. This means every day, law enforcement is forced to release people it would otherwise detain.

Posted: Dec 5, 2018 6:51 PM
Updated: Dec 6, 2018 1:55 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- The Jackson County Jail is over-capacity. This means every day, law enforcement is forced to release people it would otherwise detain. 

The jail was built nearly 40 years ago. It was originally designed to house about 160 inmates. It has been expanded over the years and can now house 300 during the day and 315 at night. Most days, it houses around 334 people.

This affects many aspects of law enforcement, including the courts. 

"The criminal justice system in Jackson County is broken," explains Judge Lorenzo Mejia.  "Getting a new jail would be a major fix."

One reason for this is the number of people that fail to show up to their court date. 

"Sometimes we have a hundred cases set for arraignment," Mejia says. "We'll be lucky if 50% of those people show up."

A new jail would allow the courts to hold people arrested until their court appearance. 

However, the estimated price of a new jail is around $100,000,000. 

"I understand it is a big expense," explains Mejia. "I am not a lock em up and throw away the key guy. But basically, if the criminal justice system does not function, that is a real tax on the community, an ongoing tax, where there is no benefit."

Sheriff Nathan Sickler says a healthy jail operates at around 15 to 20 percent under capacity. 

Jackson County authorities, spearheaded by the Sheriff's Office, recently produced the following video regarding the issue:

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