Jackson County, Ore. — Fewer inmates are being released in Jackson county.
That’s according to recent lodging statistics.
But the issue of jail overcrowding continues to be a problem.
Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler says Medford has seen a reduction in overall crime rates and he thinks fewer inmates being released has something to do with it.
However, overcrowding at the jail will most likely persist until a new jail can be built.
“If they just go in there and they’re in and out and in and out like a revolving door, it’s not fair to the police… It’s not fair to the citizens,” Medford resident George Schroeder said.
Overcrowding at the Jackson County Jail has been an ongoing issue for years.
“A lot of unstable people I think are being put back out on the street,” Medford resident Christopher Clay said.
Every time the jail reaches capacity, inmates have to be released early back out into the community.
“We’ve got to do something because we can’t let these criminals spread loose on the streets where they could potentially hurt our children,” Medford resident Linn Edwards said.
Recent statistics from the Jackson County Jail show there has been a 25 percent reduction of inmates getting released compared to last year.
And of those let go, more are known as a “Risk Release” meaning the jail was able to plan ahead and decide who was safer to let out.
“So we may be releasing people who are a bit lower risk in anticipation that the jail is going to fill very quickly again,” Sheriff Sickler said.
Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler says the decrease is due in part to the opening of the jail basement in April of last year.
That added 62 more beds.
Then in February, the sheriff’s office started its Chronic Fail to Appear program where jail beds are set aside for inmates who continuously fail to appear for court.
But Sheriff Sickler says they still need at least 200 more beds in order to stop overcapacity, and that most likely means building a new jail.
“My hope and my goal is to figure out a way that we can get a new jail, and that we can have zero forced releases in our county,” Sheriff Sickler said.
Many Jackson County residents agree a new jail is needed.
“The solution is to make a big enough facility to where when people get put in jail for a crime, and they serve their time in its entirety before they get let back out,” Schroeder said.
Sheriff Sickler says money in reserves can help with building costs of the facility, but something like a bond measure or service district would be needed in order to handle the operational costs.
Many residents say they’d be willing to pay if it meant the community would be a safer place.
As long as the jail is kept simple.
“If the tax is going to something that’s useful… Infrastructure, jail, roads, whatever… I’m in favor of it,” Medford resident Harpo Deroma said.
“I’d be willing to vote in something like that for a grant because it’s something that we desperately need,” Edwards said.
“What price would you pay to keep your family safe?” Clay said.
Although all four people NBC5 News spoke to today were in favor of a new jail, a survey back in April showed a majority of Jackson County residents were not in favor of a bond measure to pay for it.
If something does go on the ballot, the decision will ultimately be up to all Jackson County Voters.