Jail levy back before voters
Dozens of seats on special district boards will be decided in the May 21 election, but Jefferson County voters will decide only one measure: the operations levy for the Jefferson County Correctional Facility. Ballots will be mailed out May 1.
Sheriff Jim Adkins is seeking a three-year operations levy for $1.39 per $1,000 of assessed value, a small increase over the five-year, $1.24 per $1,000 levy voters passed in 2013.
The levy request is a reduction from the amount Adkins sought in the November election. "In November, I asked the voters to approve a five-year, $1.70 per $1,000 operations levy, which was voted down."
Adkins, who has worked for the JCSO for 33 years, explained that he was able to reduce the request by 31 cents by using the jail's carryover money. "I'll be using all of the carryover money I currently have, so at the end of three years, my jail operations budget will be near zero. No carryover."
The carryover built up in the earlier years of jail operation, when the county rented beds to both Crook and Deschutes counties for their inmates. Deschutes County added jail space about five years ago, and no longer needed the additional beds.
At a candidate forum last week, Adkins said that the sheriff's office has had a contract with Crook County for the past 19 years, since the jail opened. In another month or so, Crook County's new jail will open, and that contract, which has provided the county with about $700,000 per year, will be ended.
Currently, he said, "I need three deputies on per shift; it doesn't matter if I have 30 or 110 (inmates). If I go over 100, I would have to have more staff."
Last year, the jail averaged 86 inmates per day, with about 30 of those from Crook County.
"The facility is very efficient for what we have," he said, pointing out that the Jefferson County inmate population ranges from about 45-80.
If the levy fails, Adkins said that he will be forced to lay off about half his staff — 10 deputies — and cut the jail population to 24.
"Currently, if you do the crime, you're going to do the time," he said. "That's a big deterrent."
Under the worst case scenario, the jail would no longer be able house people for such offenses as probation violations, or driving under the influence of intoxicants.
If it fails, he said, he and the district attorney would get together to determine which crimes would merit incarceration.
In the meantime, he said, he continues to explore other possibilities for housing inmates from other jurisdictions. "Currently, there are no other law enforcement entities who wish to house their inmates here and enter into a contract with me. I will continue to search out contracts, but thus far, I'm unsuccessful."
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