The jail now has the funding for this expansion since voters approved the public safety levy back in May. On July 1, the jail will open an area with 35 jail beds and 96 more a week later. This expansion means more criminals in jail than on the streets. Come July, the population of criminals living behind bars in Lane County will double.
“Right now we have about 125, and we’re going to add another 131, will take us to 256,” said Sgt. Steve French, Lane County Sheriff’s Office.
The crews working on these renovations aren’t your typical construction workers.
“In the refurbishment, the sheriff’s office has been utilizing the inmate workers to the extent possible, and that is to reduce the costs to the citizens of Lane County,” Sgt. French said.
Inmates are working to sand, paint, and plaster the walls. They’re also grouting and repairing the bathrooms and showers, which are tasks that will be the inmates’ responsibilities to keep clean once they move in.
“They’re responsible for their own hygiene and sanitation,” Sgt. French said.
Crews are renovating two different areas of the jail, a group of dormitories where 24 inmates will live together in one room and another section where inmates will live alone.
“They classify that inmate on a scale. The inmates that are in the dorm-style housing areas are considered a less risk than the individuals that they will put into the individual cells,” Sgt. French.
Now that there will be more jail beds, the sheriff’s office needs more deputies to work in the jail.
“We have to hire staff to run the facility. That’s 32 new deputy positions, 6.5 support positions,” Sgt. French said.
Some of those positions will be filled by deputies who were laid off due to budget cuts in the past.
Although the population of people living in the jail will double, the sheriff’s office says it will still need to issue capacity-based releases, but it will now have enough room to house more of the county’s most violent offenders.