Jail proposal push continues

MEDFORD, Ore. – Jackson County’s sheriff says a new jail proposal could be on the ballot in May of next year.

The sheriff says the Jackson County jail has been overcrowded for more than thirty years. Currently, the day time capacity is around 300 inmates. With the county’s jail proposal, the capacity could more than double. Despite recent setbacks, the sheriff is not giving up.

“We’ve kind of hit the reset button,” Sheriff Nathan Sickler said.

After Ashland and talent city councils voiced concerns about Jackson County’s jail proposal this spring, the county isn’t giving up.

“The new jail has been needed since the 80’s. There were a lot of band aid fixes that were applied in the early, oh say 2005, 2006, 2007 time frame. They were meant to perhaps band aid it for another 10 years,” Bob Strosser, Commissioner, said.

The sheriff is hoping to get input from local cities and community members before trying again. He hopes a 20 to 40 person community panel will form within the next month. The goal is to help address concerns and to make the proposal even stronger.

“Hopefully that will give us the information and the background needed to approach the cities and hopefully get eleven cities to agree to enter into the district,” Sheriff Sickler said.

Sheriff Sickler says the committee will include people with diverse backgrounds, from local city administrations, to social services, law enforcement and mental health.

“The national institute of corrections came through and evaluated our process and they would normally make a lot of suggestions about alternatives that could be implemented. In our case, they said we are already doing it. everything is working as best it can. It is simply inadequate to the need.”

If all eleven cities can agree to create a new jail district, the $166 million project is still estimated to cost taxpayers about 83 cents per $1000 of assessed property value. Then voters would get to weigh in.

“The jail is, you know, kind of the backbone of the criminal justice system and right now. It’s struggling to keep up. The capacity just isn’t there and it really impacts all of the other services in Jackson County.

At the end of the day, the sheriff hopes that with a panel of community members working alongside the county, city councils will be more receptive to the proposal.

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