Overcrowded, understaffed: Local jails facing challenges

MEDFORD, —A staffing shortage is leading to a reduction in the number of adults in custody at the Klamath County Detention Center.

Sheriff Chris Kaber says staffing levels reached critical numbers earlier this month.

“Our staffing is down by 20% and it’s been down for quite some time, our deputies have been working extreme amounts of overtime to keep the jail running,” said Sheriff Kaber.

The Klamath County Detention Center is a 150-bed facility and has 48 employees. 30 of those positions include 24/7 corrections deputies, but the sheriff says the jail has 17 currently. The average daily population has been around 120 adults in custody per day.

“It’s quite frankly burning them out and we’re starting to see people leaving and so we need to do something to relieve that stress of their job,” said Sheriff Kaber.

As a result, through a combination of rehousing, citing to court, and releasing those eligible, the jail has reduced the average daily population by approximately 20%. Sheriff Kaber says while this isn’t a decision he would like to make, it is necessary to relieve the stress on staff.

“It’s nothing that any sheriff would like to do, nothing the judicial system likes to see happen, however, it came to the point where a decision needed to be made,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is dealing with a different issue, overcrowding at its jail. It says the current facility is aging, not big enough to support the current criminal justice system, and its design limits its ability to offer meaningful treatment programs.

“As part of the southern Oregon community, every single one of us is being impacted by the fact that people are being released early from the jail due to overcrowding, whether that’s in the form of re-victimization or additional resources being supplied to these people who aren’t getting the help that they need while in custody,” Captain Josh Aldrich, with JCSO.

JCSO has brought up overcrowding as an issue for years. In May 2020, Sheriff Nathan Sickler and county commissioners put a new larger jail on the ballot.  The effort was rejected by voters, with roughly 70% voting no.

But that won’t stop either sheriff’s office from continuing to work towards a solution.

JCSO says it will start surveying the community to learn if a potential correctional facility project is something that is supported or could be supported in the near future. The sheriff’s office says it will be reaching out to the community by the end of the week.

As for Sheriff Kaber, he says his team will continue to hire to increase the jail population.

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Jenna King is the 6pm anchor and our Feature Reporter at 10pm and 11pm for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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