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Sheriff is on the right track to prioritize jail custodies

I recently retired from the Sheriff's Office after 22 years of service. I served under five sheriffs in my time there, beginning as a corrections deputy and working my way up through the ranks until Sheriff Dickerson appointed me as the jail commander in 2009. I stand in support of the sheriff's moves to limit future custodies to serious crimes that demand a lockup and to support jail operations by renting beds to federal agencies.

I was involved deeply in the planning and construction of the jail in 1999 and 2000 under former Sheriff Phil Derby. From the outset, Sheriff Derby believed that providing beds to federal and state authorities seeking to pay rental fees for those beds was good way to offset the cost of operating the jail, and we have set aside jail beds for that purpose ever since.

For this reason and others, I would like to refute the comments of Mr. Roger Beardsley and others in regard to the notion that the jail is being run like a profit center or (as a municipal court judge accused the sheriff) by ignoring 'justice for our county's taxpayers in favor of collecting money from the federal government.' Nothing could be further from the truth.

A jail is a very expensive venture to run, and only the most serious offenders and threats to public safety belong behind bars. If it wasn't for the revenue produced by bed rentals, the jail would not function much at all. If the courts want to use the jail as a way to collect money from defendants, they should either pay for that service or find another way to collect fees.

Our jail staff has been overwhelmed at times with the feeding, clothing, housing and medical care of non-violent problem children whose major offense is a failure to comply with what the court wants. The sheriff is right to say we need to find another way to do things. And he is also right to continue to rent beds to the federal government. These beds don't take the place of local offenders; they make it so the local offenders will continue to have somewhere to be kept.

I hope county residents won't listen to the complaints of those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, but rather will support their elected sheriff, who is committed to listening to the citizens and designing a program that will work within the resources that they give him.

- Jim Carpenter, Scappoose