Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts announced last week that the remaining 46 closed beds at the Clackamas County Jail reopened March 1, bringing the jail back up to full capacity.

'Citizen approval of the November 2006 levy, which was created thanks to input from our citizen-driven Blue Ribbon Committee - along with aggressive hiring, employee training and keen jail management - have allowed us to increase our staff so those beds could be opened,' Roberts said.

Staffing shortages in 2002 caused the sheriff's office to close 84 beds at the jail - more than 19 percent of the total 434 beds - but the levy's passage provided the needed funds to reopen the jail beds.

The sheriff's office opened the first 38 jail beds last November due to the hiring of new corrections deputies and the implementation of more efficient staffing processes.

The remaining 46 beds opened ahead of schedule; the original plan called for opening all the beds at the end of March.

According to the sheriff's office, the November bed openings already have impacted public safety. That month saw a 34-percent decrease in the number of inmates being freed due to overcrowding over the previous month.

'That means 130 offenders who would have been released due to a lack of bed space remained in custody,' sheriff's office spokesman Jim Strovink wrote in a press release. 'Sheriff Roberts is optimistic that the opening of the remaining 46 beds will further slow the forced release of offenders in Clackamas County."

In other jail news, Roberts also is developing an inmate work crew program that will employ prisoners to perform labor outside the jail.

The program is only weeks away from being implemented.

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