A third-party company was asked by the Crook County Court to complete a cost benefit analysis of a Jefferson County jailbed rental proposal

For more than a decade, Crook County has rented jail beds from Jefferson County to supplemet the 16 beds available in their local facility.

The plan had worked relatively well until the recession hit and Crook County cut their rental budget to account for diminished tax revenue.

“We lost 20 beds and 20 beds was the difference that would help us keep fairly level at that point,” said Crook County Commissioner Ken Fahlgren. Dropping from 36 beds to 16 created an ongoing situation where Crook County Jail has released hundreds of inmate annually due to the lack of jail space available.

At times, the releases have generated citizen alarm, with the most recent case involving the brief incarceration of an antique car thief. The owners expressed the same, if not more disappointment and anger in the fact that the suspect was released due to jail space.

“It fired up the community,” Fahlgren said, “which it should have.”

Consequently, the county is investigating a variety of options to remedy the problem. Such considerations include the construction of a new facility, retrofitting the soon-to-be-abandoned Pioneer Memorial Hospital building, or increasing the quantity of jail bed rentals from Jefferson County.

The most popular option among local leaders thus far has been the retrofit as they anticipate saving money on construction costs as well as the transport and bed rental costs associated with expanding their reliance on Jefferson County.

While that is the case, county leaders prefer to leave no stone unturned and recently requested a cost benefit analysis from a neutral entity to determine whether a long-term bed rental arrangement with Jefferson County would pencil out as well or better than other options.

DSA Inc. completed the study and recently provided it to the county. The analysis included a cost of a book and hold facility, which the county believes they would still need as a temporary destination for local offenders before they were incarcerated in Jefferson County. It would hold arrestees for up to 24 hours except in certain cases such as a three-day weekend where they would stay for up to 72 hours.

The hold facility portion of the analysis was broken into two scenarios. One was based on a renovation of the existing jail solely for use as a book and hold facility, and the other scenario assumed that the county renovated a portion of Pioneer Memorial Hospital strictly for a book and hold facility.

The study found that operating a book and hold facility would save Crook County approximately $78,000 each year, without taking into consideration the additional bed rental and transportation costs they would incur.

Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley said that Jefferson County currently rents them jail beds at a price of $64.95 per inmate per day. Jefferson County has recently submitted Crook County with a long-term bed rental proposal that offers them a discounted rate depending on the number of beds they choose to rent. Under that proposal, the first 16 beds would cost $62.98, the second 16 would drop $57.98, then the next 8 would cost $56.98, and the rate for the next 10 after that would be $53.98. The county has determined that they need about 60 beds to meet their current needs.

Fahlgren acknowledged that it makes sense for Jefferson County to solicit bed rentals from Crook County to help them stabilize their jail operation.

“They are very good to give us discounted rates,” he continued. “They have been just wonderful to work with.”

Hensley agreed, noting that the counties have worked well together and he has enjoyed a good working relationship with Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins.

Nevertheless, Hensley stressed that they need to do what is best for Crook County, and county leaders determined, based on the study, that increasing jail bed rentals would not meet that goal.

“What we took away from it is that there is no cost benefit to the county in a long-term jail bed agreement with Jefferson County because of the need to maintain a hold facility in Crook County, even if we rent all of our jail space from them,” said Crook County Counsel Jeff Wilson.

While that is the case, Fahlgren and Hensley stressed that they will seek the will of the citizens throughout the ongoing jail analysis process. The county will continue looking into a possible retrofit of the hospital building, the construction of a new facility, and a long-term rental bed agreement with Jefferson County, and as they do so, they intend to hold frequent public meetings to keep residents up to date and take their input. One such meeting is planned for July 22, at Prineville City Hall.

“We work for the public,” Fahlgren said. “We don’t tell the public what to do. We suggest these are the problems that have and how do we take care of it?”

Hensley agreed, even if the public favored increasing jail bed rentals.

“If that’s the best way to save money and do it, and if this community wants to do that, that’s their decision. They just need to tell us.”

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