National agency to evaluate Jackson County’s jail

Medford, Ore. — A revolving door at the Jackson County Jail has the sheriff’s office taking new steps, to deal with overcrowding. NBC5 News first told you back in May, about a plan to evaluate the needs at the jail. Tonight, that plan is moving forward.

“The design of that one isn’t very efficient,” Captain Dan Penland says of the current jail design. The jail captain has worked in the facility for 35 years. He knows first hand, what’s working and what’s not.

“We know it’s overcrowded,” Captain Penland explains, “it’s very labor intensive.”

The jail has been overcrowded for more than 3 decades, and the number of people lodged annually, continues to grow. In 2015, more than 12,000 people were booked. In 2016, the number was 14,000.
As of September 2017, they’ve lodged 10,000 people and counting.

“Just the way things go I think we’ll probably have more than last year,” Penland says, “I just don’t know how many more.”

As the county looks to address the overcrowding problem, it’s turning to a national agency to weigh in.

“They’re not gonna come in and tell us what to do, but they’re gonna come in and do an assessment of the jail’s impact on the justice system overall.”

In mid-October, the National Institute of Corrections will come evaluate the jail, speak with the law enforcement community, and make recommendations. Whether that’s to build a new jail, or to implement efficiencies, Penland says this marks the first step in what will be a lengthy process.

“I think everybody knows that we need a new jail, and we want to push forward with that,” Penland says, “a lot of of people are going to have input in this process as we move along, but its not going to be a quick process.”

The NIC provides technical assistance at no cost to jails all across the country. Once the agency visits the Jackson County Jail later this month, it representatives will release their findings during a public meeting. If you’re interested in attending it’s taking place from 8am to noon on October 19th, at the Medford Police Department.  If you’d like to learn more about the NIC click HERE.

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