EUGENE, Ore. – Lane County has had to let some inmates out of jail early, and now some citizens are concerned about their safety.
Jacob Hartman put himself in harm’s way at his girlfriend’s home last week when he tried to protect her from her ex-husband.
“I looked down because I felt something warm running down my leg and saw lacerations down my leg and I yelled ‘He has a knife,’” said Hartman.
Police say the man who stabbed Hartman is Erik Libbert. Officers arrested Libbert, booked him, then released him from jail. In Hartman’s opinion, it was too soon.
“I have no idea why they released him from jail. From what I understand, they said they didn’t have room for him,” Hartman said.
That may come as a surprise to Lane County voters, who in May approved a levy to give more money to the sheriff’s office to fund more space in the jail. The money was supposed to help keep violent suspects behind bars.
However, Sgt. Steve French from the sheriff’s office said for the fiscal year 2012-2013, the sheriff’s office does not have any additional funding. The voter-approved funding increase won’t kick in until July 1, so until then, the sheriff’s office still has to release suspects like Libbert because of a lack of space and funding.
“We are releasing individuals into the community that we don’t deem as safe. They’re safer than the people we’re keeping in custody, but we don’t believe that these people are safe,” said French.
The sheriff’s office says it uses a computer software called Capacity Based Release (CBR) to help determine whether to keep or release a criminal.
“The CBR for inmates and offenders within the Lane County Jail is based on a variety of factors. One of those factors is their current charge. Some of the other factors include previous charges, previous convictions,” said French.
Although criminals are being released after CBR assessments, the sheriff’s office says it’s still doing what it can to keep the public safe, for example, using GPS ankle bracelets.
“The sheriff’s office is utilizing all available resources to keep the offenders we can in custody,” said French.
Keeping more offenders in custody is something that will happen after July 1 with the new budget year, which could be somewhat reassuring to victims like Jacob Hartman.
“I think that as a collective, a lot of people feel the same way I do,” said Hartman.