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Step up pressure to keep jail beds

Multnomah County citizens heartened last year by the reopening of 114 jail beds at the county's Inverness facility should be alarmed that those beds are again in danger of being closed.

Because county commissioners failed to fund necessary programs in his 2006-07 budget, Sheriff Bernie Giusto says his only option - if midyear budget adjustments aren't made - will be to cut investigations and jail beds.

For an idea of the games played with the budget, consider this: Three commissioners declined to fund access to the 911 system as well as the sheriff's matrix unit, which decides who will stay in overcrowded jails and who will be released.

In reality, the sheriff doesn't have the option of eliminating 911 or the matrix system, so he must cut elsewhere. Although the budget has been adopted, these decisions cannot stand for a full year without damaging public safety. The best opportunity for reconsideration arrives with incoming county Chairman Ted Wheeler in January. Citizens, however, should begin lobbying him on this issue now.