Skip to comments.Oregon county releases inmates amid budget cuts
Posted on 05/30/2012 9:01:44 PM PDT by quantim
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- Dozens of inmates ran whooping from a small town jail into the sunshine Wednesday after a cash-strapped county in Oregon's timber region was forced to release them amid budget cuts.
The sheriff's office released 39 inmates, dropping the population at the jail in Grants Pass to 60 - half of them federal prisoners held on contract.
"We had no other alternative based on our funding predicament," said Josephine County Undersheriff Don Fasching. "We are very concerned for public safety."
About half of those released will finish their sentences on work crews. The rest were waiting for trial.
The most common charges were for drug crimes, minor assaults, burglary, identity theft and probation violations.
"We did keep the worst of the worst" - those facing charges for crimes that carry mandatory prison sentences - said Jail Commander Vicki Smith.
Among the inmates released was one incarcerated for failing to register as a sex offender, and another accused of agreeing to sex for money with a 14-year-old girl offered by her boyfriend online.
The sheriff's office was forced to cut staffing to levels not seen since 1991 after voters emphatically turned down a $12 million levy to plug a gap left by the expiration of federal timber subsidies. Since then, applications for concealed weapons permits have skyrocketed, many taken by people concerned that the sheriff's cuts will lead to a rise in crime.
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If you were to excise about about a five mile swath 100 miles long of I-5 from Portland to Eugene, what was left of the state would be solid Republican.