EUGENE, Ore. — The Lane County Jail is finally seeing the results of the public safety levy that passed in May.
It added 35 new jail beds Monday, which is just a portion of the total amount it plans to add by next week. The jail plans to add another 96 beds by the end of next week.
The sheriff’s office says while it’s not perfect, the additional beds is a step in the right direction for Lane County.
Residents in Lane County can rest a little easier knowing there will be fewer capacity-based releases at the jail. But the keyword is fewer. The additional beds won’t completely eliminate capacity-based releases.
“This is going to bring us up to 256 local beds so we’re about a quarter of what we need to have in order to keep offenders in custody,” said Steve French, Lane County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer.
With the passing of the levy, the amount of jail beds will nearly double from the previous number of 125. But the amount the sheriff’s office says it needs in order to keep offenders from being released is a thousand. That means it still has work to do.
“The sheriff has called it a public safety crisis and without the ability to hold an offender accountable for their actions there’s no reason for them not to go out and do the same thing again,” French said.
He says most of the inmates released are property crime offenders, but some of those offenders let go are facing charges for more serious crimes. Residents KEZI 9 News spoke with say the capacity-based releases are a problem, but there’s an underlying issue that may fix it.
“I feel like a lot of people are in jail that don’t belong there. Maybe they need to have mental health care,” said Roger Harrison, who’s visiting Eugene.
“Maybe they don’t need to long term so much they need to be referred for drug rehabilitation or something like that,” said Springfield resident Karen Sheridan.
And the levy does just that. The funds not only pay to house the offenders and hire more deputies, but it also covers food and medical costs, which include mental health services.
Residents say it’s a good sign for the future, but they’re still a little on edge.
“I think about that who got held up at knife point in the middle of the day. And I’m like you know that’s a little frightening,” Sheridan said.
The Lane County Sheriff’s Office had to wait until Monday to add those beds because July 1 is the start of the new fiscal year. Also, the fees for the levy aren’t collected until November, so right now the sheriff’s office is borrowing from the county solid waste management fund. Once the fees go into effect, the levy essentially pays back what was borrowed.