There may be times when being near the bottom is a good thing. Being among the counties in Oregon with the fewest jail beds is not one of those.

Clackamas County has been walking a tightrope for years on the issue of jail space for prisoners. The county jail in Oregon City has become a virtual revolving door in recent years with many arrestees being back on the street almost as fast as their arresters can return to their patrol cars.

Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts wants to change this situation. He has a wish list for the type of jail facility he would like to see someday in the county. But first things first … baby steps if you will.

Right now Roberts, a blue-ribbon panel of folks from all over the county and plenty of concerned citizens hope to see Clackamas County Ballot Measure 3-246, which would be a five-year public safety operating local option tax, pass on the Nov. 7 ballot. Add us to the list.

Oregon is a hotbed of crime. Just note the seemingly never-ending problems associated with meth use. The link between meth and crimes like theft, identity theft and car break-ins has been well documented.

It makes no sense to have police arrest criminals, then turn the criminals loose because of crowded conditions. Yet, that's exactly what's happening. Currently, 84 beds at the county jail are not in use due to funding constraints. Among other things, the measure would allow the county to use those beds.

Clackamas County has among the fewest jail beds in the state for housing inmates. Per 1,000 population, the national average is 2.5 inmate beds. The Oregon average is 2.3. Currently, Clackamas sits at an alarming .99; if the measure passes, it will only go up to 1.2.

Obviously, we need more, but it's back to those baby steps and the county has to start somewhere. Beside the jail beds, the measure also would provide for 19 extra sheriff's deputies to patrol in the county and fund expanded enforcement to fight meth-related crimes.

The measure would cost 24.8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That would equal about $8.16 a month for a $400,000 home.

No question, that's a lot of money.

Can you afford it? More importantly, can you afford not to pass it?

We urge passage of Clackamas County Ballot Measure 3-246.

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