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The March 7 and 14 events seek to answer questions about a future facility in Prineville



Photo Credit: KEVIN SPERL - The Crook County Jail, shown above, has to regularly release inmates because of its lack of adequate space. The upcoming Patriots forums will look at options for building a new, larger facility.

A “get out of jail free card” may be a good thing when it comes to playing Monopoly, but it seems as if too many of those convicted of crimes in Crook County are getting them as well.

Craig Brookhart, director of the Central Oregon Patriots, wants people to know that hundreds of people who should be locked up are being released into the community without having served their sentences.

“With our current lack of jail space, deputies are forced to make decision on whom to release,” said Brookhart. “Over the course of a year upwards of 800 people are being released and there is a growing cost to our community because of that.”

To raise awareness about the problem, the Patriots organization will be hosting two town hall-style meetings to inform the public about the problem and begin a discussion about what to do in the future.

According to Brookhart, a number of city and law enforcement officials have been invited to speak on the issue.

“The first meeting will be to inform the public about the current situation and solutions that are being explored,” explained Brookhart. “The second meeting on March 14 will be an opportunity for community input and questions to be answered.”

District Attorney Daina Vitolins will be providing county crime statistics and how the lack of jail space impacts the effectiveness of her department.

“There are those that know that if they commit a crime in Crook County, the chances are pretty good that they won’t go to jail,” said Brookhart. “I have heard that there was someone arrested for DUI that was let go because there was no place to keep him. He was arrested again later that night. People need to start recognizing the impact our jail situation is having on the community.”

Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley will present statistics on the number of people released along with options for increasing jail capacity.

County Judge Mike McCabe, City Counselor Jeff Wilson, and Police Chief Les Styles have been invited to talk about options being explored for either building a new jail or renovating Pioneer Memorial Hospital after it is vacated.

In July, 2014, local officials offered a recap of previous studies on the feasibility of retrofitting the Pioneer Memorial Hospital building for a new jail and criminal justice complex that would house the police department, sheriff’s office, and 911 dispatch. Representatives from DLR Group and HSR Master Planning and Architecture, two companies hired by local leaders to complete the studies, told city and county officials what steps remained in order to determine what options best fit their structural and financial needs.

Studies thus far have examined whether a retrofit jail is economically feasible, if it would meet current and future jail bed needs, and if the infrastructure was sufficient. Those studies have come back with enough encouraging data for the county and city to consider the next steps, programming and master planning.

“Programming is to determine the scope of the building,” explained Laurie Coppenrath, of DLR Group, at the time. “You interview everyone from the departments who might move into the building and figure out what today’s needs are in terms of space.”

At that meeting, City Councilor Jason Carr asked for a rough estimate on a retrofit and newly constructed jail and criminal justice center. After cautioning that estimates could vary wildly, Bill Valdez, of DLR Group, stated that a retrofit jail at PMH would cost about $5.5 million while a new jail would come in at approximately $13 million.

Brookhart said that the COP is not advocating for any particular solution.

“We want people to simply be informed about the problem,” he said. “People are very focused on talking about the solution, but our position is not to propose a solution but to understand the problem.”

For Brookhart, anything other than releasing hundreds of people into the community before they have served their sentence would be a good start.

The Central Oregon Patriots will be holding two town hall-style meetings to address issues regarding the lack of sufficient jail space in Crook County.

The first meeting will be held on Saturday, Mar. 7 at 2:30 p.m. in the Prineville City Hall council chambers. The second will be on Saturday, Mar. 14 at 2 p.m. at Crook County High School. For more information visit cop.spruz.com/

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