Jackson Co. Jail reorganizes to add beds, integrate more mental health services

MEDFORD, Ore.– Overcrowding issues have been a persistent problem for the Jackson County Jail. That has Sheriff Nathan Sickler and other law enforcement looking to reorganize to allow for more inmates.

In a press release sent out Wednesday morning, Sheriff Sickler outlined what they called a “creative reorganization” to add more jail beds to help alleviate some of the overcrowding.

“You know we’re just trying to do what we can with what we have and we’ve made that commitment to the public,” said Sheriff Sickler.

Among the changes being made, jail officials made the decision to move all of the female inmates to the basement level (something done before when crowding was a problem) to create eight new beds. With the move, the daytime capacity increased from 292 to 300 with nighttime capacity increasing to 315.

“The jail staff came up with an idea to move the females back into the basement which opened up the area which they were previously at,” said Sheriff Sickler. “So we were able to use those additional bunks and basically expand our capacity during daytime hours.”

These changes may also help deal with other problems the sheriff’s office have been meaning to address, especially with forced releases of inmates during the night.

“Pushing somebody out onto the street in the middle of the night just isn’t a very good thing for public safety or for the individual,” he said.

With the slight increase, the hope is this will help prevent nighttime releases and hold inmates overnight to where they can then be released in the morning and proceed to local services during open hours.

However, the sheriff hopes this move solves more than one problem. One being mental health services for inmates in need.

“We want to find ways for people that are mental health affected to be able to sort of graduate to bigger social circles,” said Joshua Aldrich, jail commander of the Jackson County Jail.

But the problem the jail has run into is the more overcrowded it gets, the harder it is to get the proper resources to people dealing with mental health issues.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do is have smaller housing units that are devoted to these folks that have mental health illness concerns,” said Aldrich. “To one housing unit where actually we’re gonna be able to let those people out just like they would be in a regular population unit, where they’re out most of the day in the day room area.”

Other concepts are being worked out with departments and organizations like Jackson County Community Justice and the Addictions Recovery Center to better assist the needs of inmates with mental health problems.

But only so much can be done with the 37-year old facility and sheriff stresses these moves are only a temporary relief to a longstanding problem. Sheriff Sickler spoke of building a new, modern jail facility in a new location but development, location and funding will all need to be brought up and ultimately decided by voters before anything can be built.

“Our jail is severely undersized to support this community,” said Aldrich. “But I think we’ve identified these places where we can start having a little affect on those problems.”

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