With only a few spots available at the jail, the question is, Who isn't being released?

by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - According to Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson, failure to pass an operations levy on Nov. 5 will result in shutdown of the jail.BIllsEmeryGirodLaneColumbia County voters will decide Nov. 5 whether to pass a four-year operating levy to fund the Columbia County Jail. The levy measure, titled Measure 5-234, is expected to generate an average $2.4 million per year if it passes.

Due to budget reductions, the jail is down to only 25 beds for local offenders from 65, a decision county officials made in June to offset the ballooning deficit between jail revenue and expense. Of those 25 beds, about eight are reserved for probation and parole violators and are paid for by the Oregon Department of Corrections, essentially leaving only 17 beds available.

With an increasing number of offenders being pushed to the street, including some who have been arrested and charged with arguably serious crimes such as assault and stalking, one question that results is: Who are the county’s worst of the worst who are occupying the 17 beds?

In fact, roughly seven of the 17 beds are held by higher risk offenders, leaving, as of press time Thursday, only 10 beds open for new offenders to vie for.

“We can’t really assume anything because things change from day to day,” said Lt. Brooke McDowall, a jail supervisor. Due to the potential for new offenders to enter the jail with even higher scores, those currently serving long-term sentences could still be “matrixed out.”

The current point-system used to rank offenders based on their convictions results in some inmates being released earlier than their sentences would indicate. Inmates are ranked based on a point system that allocates scores for both felony and misdemeanor crimes; the more serious the crime, the higher score. Since the county’s “highest-scoring” offenders are serving long-term sentences, other low-scoring offenders are often pushed out of the jail early.

But, as the release data indicate, a low score doesn’t necessarily equate to a minor offense.

According to a statement released by Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson, the jail was forced to early-release 22 inmates last week. Inmates matrixed out last week include people accused of assault, theft, reckless driving, reckless endangering, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, and more. The week prior, the Columbia County Jail released 21 inmates through the matrix system, including an accused stalker, an accused strangler and a man convicted of interfering with police. So far this year, the jail has released a total of 644 inmates through the matrix system.

While some offenders are being released early despite offenses indicating long-term sentences, the jail’s few “serious offenders” are staying-put, say Columbia County Sheriff’s Office officials.

Still, the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t provide information the inmate’s matrix rankings, so getting a fix on who stays in and who is close to being released isn’t easy.

“We don’t give out their rankings. It creates too many problems with the inmates. The rankings can change from day to day depending on what they’ve done recently,” Dickerson said.

Despite the policy of not discussing inmates’ matrix scores, frequent review of the jail’s inmate population offers some insight into the county’s highest-risk inmates, either those who are awaiting trial or serving a sentence. They are:

• Micah Leroy Bills, a 32-year-old registered sex offender arrested in May on charges of attempted murder and first-degree rape, is one inmate at the Columbia County Jail who is staying put, Dickerson said. Bills was lodged in the Columbia County Jail after allegedly running his vehicle into a woman on Wikstrom Road near Scappoose. Police reported Bills also threatened the woman with a weapon before hitting her with his car. Bills turned himself in to Scappoose police the day after the incident.

• Michael Bernard Lytsell, 30, is another inmate serving a long-term sentence at the jail, officials say. Lytsell was arrested May 6, 2012, for murder. Initially, Lytsell was arrested for a double shooting in St. Helens, but was later charged with murder following the death of one of his victims. Lytsell was arrested following a short, high-speed chase with officers who responded to the shooting. He reportedly plowed through a guardrail and fence before flipping his car onto its passenger side on a set of train tracks near West Street and Oregon Street in St. Helens. Lytsell shot his victims for intervening in an argument he was engaged in.

• Donald Edward Emery III, 43, was arrested Sept. 9, 2012, for first-degree burglary, first-degree theft, two counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, two counts of attempting to elude the police, three counts of reckless endangerment, two counts of hit-and-run vehicle property and other charges. Upon being pulled over by Rainier police, Emery allegedly slowed to a stop, put his stolen pickup in reverse, smashed the front end of a Rainier police vehicle and fled into Longview, Wash., where he was later located by Cowlitz County deputies and arrested.

“Lytsell and Bills are probably the most serious offenders in the jail,” McDowall said. McDowall added that other inmates serving long-term sentences include David James Girod, 46, arrested in August for felon in possession of a weapon, delivery and possession of methamphetamine and reckless endangerment.

McDowall said Anthony Victor Lane, 28, will also be serving a long-term sentence, but is on an “exclusive hold” for the state of Tennessee. The state of Tennessee issued a warrant for Lane which led to his incarceration in the Columbia County Jail. Lane is being held for second-degree failure to appear, contempt of court and probation violation.

Two of the jail’s newer inmates, Randy Parker and Thomas Schlickeiser, both arrested Thursday, Oct. 10, after attempting to burglarize a St. Helens Home and elude police, also have fairly high scores and will likely remain detained in the jail for a long period of time, McDowall said.

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