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Oregon Jail Releases Prisoners Due to Budget Cuts
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In the middle of budget cuts, dozens of inmates were freed from a county jail in the timber region of Oregon. The jail is located in Grants Pass and 39 prisoners were released by the sheriff’s office, dropping the number of inmates remaining at the jail to 60. Half of the remaining prisoners are federal prisoners being 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.”

  
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Half of the 39 prisoners released have to finish their prison sentences by working on work release crews while the remaining have to wait for trial. The prisoners were in jail for identity theft, minor assaults, drugs, burglary and probation violations.

“We did keep the worst of the worst,” said Jail Commander Vicki Smith. One of the inmates released was in prison for failing to register as a sex offender. Another inmate released was in jail for agreeing to sex for pay with a 14-year-old girl that was offered on the internet.

The staff levels at the sheriff’s office have been cut to the lowest numbers since 1991 after a vote turned down $12 million that would plug a hole left by the expiration of subsidies for timber from the federal government. The volume of applications for concealed weapons has increased since the vote because people are fearful of a rise in crime.

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A woman who lives in the woods alone, without the internet, took photos of the criminals being released so she knows what they look like should she run into one of them in a bad situation.

“I put a gun on layaway – a .38 Special – and I’ll get a permit when I get the training,” Tammy Behrle said. “This thing can go any which way but loose.”



Another woman, Angelina Banachowicz, was thrilled to learn her boyfriend was being released. Her boyfriend was in jail for probation violations and is waiting for a trial on a minor assault.

“He’s still going to do his time,” she said. “But we’re excited he’ll be with his kids and his family.”

The most serious offenders occupy 20 beds in the jail, which leaves 10 beds for those who commit a lower level crime. This will lead to many being stopped, cited and then released by police, according to Fasching. One of the inmates released was William Nathan Smith, who was in prison on a 50-day sentence. He served only 30 days for assault, drugs, and being in possession of a firearm as a felon.

“They’re feeling like they’re getting a break for once,” Smith said. “It’s not like they’re beating the system.”



 

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