Multnomah County officials say they have no idea why

The 92-day streak of letting no accused criminals out of Multnomah County jails early because of chronic overcrowding ended Monday, when the sheriff's office released 15 people charged with minor offenses.

County officials had not attributed the dearth of early releases - called 'matrix' releases - to anything but good fortune. No inmates had been let out early since 15 were let go Jan. 14. Capacity held steady during that time at 1,690 jail beds. The Wapato jail and its 525 beds remain closed.

The number of people being booked into jails declined in the same period that the releases stopped, but nobody could explain why.

'I think the low-count thing was a fluke,' sheriff's office spokesman Lt. Jason Gates said. 'I don't think there have been any big mass arrests or anything.'

He said he had watched the jails go from holding steady at 87 percent full for weeks to 94 and 95 percent full just recently.

'It was only a matter of time,' Gates said.

This lapse of time was the longest Multnomah County had gone without what are called matrix releases since 2003, when none occurred for more than three months because public-defender firms lost their funding and defendants were released at arraignment because no lawyers were available for their defense.

The charges of the 15 people released Monday included criminal mischief, drug-possession and prostitution. Nine of the 15 were charged with failing to appear for court-ordered appointments on charges including carrying a concealed weapon, drug-possession and an attempt to steal a car.

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