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Countys jail space shortage a danger

The Jan. 23 arrest of Richard Paul Koehrsen provides a singular yet startling example of why more jail beds are still needed in Multnomah County.

Koehrsen, 45, was accused on that date of killing a 42-year-old man in downtown Portland. As reported in the Jan. 31 Portland Tribune, the stabbing occurred just two days after Koehrsen had been released Ñ because of overcrowding Ñ from the county detention center.

Koehrsen's initial arrest was for minor crimes, and officers following a county policy did not check his full criminal background, which includes a history of sex abuse and violence.

The lack of diligence and communication is in itself disturbing, but it's also important to consider that Koehrsen might have stayed in jail anyway if deputies didn't have to decide on a routine basis who to detain and who to release.

County commissioners took a first step forward in December when they reopened remaining jail beds at the Inverness facility. But as the Koehrsen case illustrates, the job isn't finished. The $58 million, unused Wapato Jail is awaiting operating funds. Commissioners should place that task at the top of their to-do list.