The Crook County Court has decided to scale back its proposal to rent jail beds from Jefferson County from 40 to 12. Instead, the court also decided to continue to operate the current 24-bed Crook County Jail and to keep contracting 12 beds from Deschutes County.
County Judge Scott Cooper and Commissioners Jerry Crafton and Mike McCabe visited the Jefferson County facility last week and acknowledged it as being well designed. They also had only good things to say about Jefferson County Sheriff Jack Jones on his management approach. However, they expressed several concerns about the contract arrangement.
Sheriff Rodd Clark said one of the major considerations has to do with available funds. Initially, Clark said, the idea of increasing the number of jail beds fit because Jefferson county was looking at contracting part of their facility. That appeared to be a good idea, the Sheriff said, until the Crook county "looked at the amount of money we have. In our discussion last week, we figured it would cost about $1 million to rent 40 beds and the court just didn't feel we have the extra dollars to do that."
The present jail budget is about $731,000 per year and with the added costs of transportation, the officials didn't believe the added cost was acceptable. The decision was made to maintain the 24 beds at the county jail and rent 12 from Jefferson County. By keeping only the long-term prisoners at Jefferson County and those with court hearings here,Clark explained, transportation costs would be greatly reduced.
Another concern from the county court was that closing the present jail might leave Crook County in an awkward position if Jefferson County should ever decide to exercise its opt-out clause and refuse to rent beds to Crook County. The three men individually voiced their concerns about the fact that once the Crook County jail is closed it cannot be re-opened. They have also discussed the long-term ability of the county to cover the cost of renting 40 beds.
By renting only 12 beds, the court decided that much-needed additional jail space could be obtained at a reasonable price. In addition, the Jefferson County jail option offers opportunities to increase incarceration of females.
During last week's court session, they heard testimony from Circuit Court Judge Gary Thompson on the proposal to rent Jefferson County jail beds. "I'm not putting Crook County voters down," Thompson told the county court. "or reading their will, but usually voters, if they understand the issues, will pass a measure. I think ultimately a jail bond will pass. Meanwhile I would like to have more beds available to me - I would love to have four or six female beds."
Thompson suggested that the court look at keeping the west wing with its 16 bed in the Crook County jail open and renting another 16 beds. The Judge said he thought the county should keep this jail open until the state closes it down. He told the county court that all three circuit court judges and defense attorneys believe that locating the jail in Madras would substantially increase the cost of defending indigent inmates.
The county court has scheduled a meeting to work on the amended agreement. That meeting will be held Wednesday morning at 10:30 in the county finance administration building, 200 SE Second St.
Clark said he and Jefferson County's sheriff, Jack Jones, have talked about conducting a couple tours of the new facility prior to its opening. Clark said he would like to take members of the defunct jail committee on one tour, and then invite interested citizens on another. If anyone is interested, he asks that they call him at the sheriff's office. If enough people show interest he will work with Sheriff Jones to set up a date.