Jail Faces Overcrowding Issues

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Mon, May 13 2013 at 6:39 PM, Updated: Mon, May 13 2013 at 7:52 PM

Inmates at the Jackson County Jail are being released because there's too little space to accommodate all the people brought in by officers.

Not enough beds, not enough money, resulting in more inmates on the streets. That's the constant problem facing officials at the Jackson County Jail.

"We've been overcrowded for quite some time," began Lt. Dan Penland, the Jackson County Jail Commander.

"Every time we get someone in the backdoor we have to make a decision on who we're going to release."

Each time, the decisions don't get any easier and each time deputies ask themselves:

"Is he worse than the next person?" 

The jail has 230 beds and it's almost always at capacity, especially on the weekends. This past Saturday and Sunday was no exception.

One of the more notable arrests, 37-year-old Robert Johannessen. He was allegedly caught red-handed trying to steal cars from a car-lot just past midnight on Saturday. He was put in jail, then Saturday afternoon was released. Police said he immediately went back to the same car lot, and tried to steal another car yet again.

"He wants to go to prison is what he's told us and told the arresting officers," said Lt. Penland.

However, even though Johannessen allegedly made it known he was going to re-offend to get back in jail, Lt. Penland said if they kept him behind bars they would have had to release someone else.

"Everything we do is a balancing act. There's nothing that any of us like about it."

Also over the weekend, six people were arrested at a Super 8 motel, only three of them remained behind bars.

Meantime jail officials said they're always on the lookout for local and federal resources...anything to open up jail beds and alleviate the issue of overcrowding.

Even with a tight budget, the Jackson County Jail is currently working on an expansion project to add 62 beds, trying to keep as many criminals as they can off the streets.

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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