A lack of care with regard to keeping up with the increased demand for jail space in several counties in and around the metro area has set up the community to fail. Criminals being booked into the jail system are learning that their stays are going to be shorter than ever.
The jails in Portland are releasing those who have been sentenced to serve time in one of their facilities. While the report tied to these releases point to the people being released being low-level offenders, this is not always the case. Hundreds are being released onto the streets every week.
An undercover report created by a local news crew tells a very different story. Officials admit to the fact that as they get close to being at capacity, they even send out notices to officers to curb some of their arrest activities.
According to Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Marc Shrake, his county uses a coded color system to alert officers when there is an issue at the jail. As it stands now, the facility in downtown Portland is at 94% of capacity.
When the downtown location of the Multnomah County Jail hits 92%, the county issues a yellow alert. This goes out to all officers to warn them that an emergency release is nearing.
The alert turns from yellow to red at 95% capacity. This means that 95% of the 1,192 beds are full. This is also when they start to turn people loose.
A yellow or red alert does more than just control when offenders get their “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. It is also used on the streets to help officers gauge when they should pull back on arresting criminals.
According to Shrake:
“That actually gets dispatched to all cars in the field, so they’ll actually know, ‘OK, be diligent of what you’re booking down there because of where our status is at.'”
In a way, this is creating an environment where officers merely stop arresting many offenders because there is no room for them anyway. On an average day without a coded color label, 49 people are arrested and booked.
This is not to say that stopping officers from arresting criminals means the crimes are not taking place. It merely means the officers are encouraged not to arrest people committing crimes.
As news began to surface about the early release status, officials began to downplay the crimes many of those being released committed. They often try to make it appear that the men and women being released are harmless at best.
This is not the case as counties allowed sex offenders who failed to register out early. There is no longer a punishment for not following the registration process.
Given the fact that this type of offender did something wrong enough that they need to be tracked on-going seems to point to the fact that they are not a low-level offender.
Since January 1st, Multnomah County has released 25 male offenders. This group includes inmates that have been found guilty of things like “…forgery, drugs, resisting arrest, theft, assault, and harassment.” Even as county officials shared none of the offenders are violent, it seems odd to think they can commit an assault without being violent.
Local news crews shared the fact that the group of “non-violent” offenders that were released early also included a man who was picked up ten days prior to attempted murder charges. This is more than a little unsettling.
Last year this same county let 95 men in total out early. The early release system had not been used since 2013.
The numbers are far worse in counties that border the metro area. In Washington County, 300 inmates have left jail early since January 1st. This is staggering considering the numbers for all of 2017 hit 550.
In Clackamas County, the numbers are even worse. Since January 1st, 400 inmates have gotten out of jail early. This is compared to 23% of all low-level inmates getting out of jail early in 2017.
Officials in Clackamas County are not trying to paint a positive picture of the early release system. They have stepped forward to share that many of those getting out of jail early slip away and miss court dates.
At least in Clackamas County, the offenders being released early are not following the rules after getting out. They are using the system to get out of jail and never looking back.