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County's $7.7 million in cuts will slash public safety services, bring jail beds to new lows

COURTESY MULTNOMAH COUNTY - Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury's administration is announcing $7.7 million of cuts as a result of lower-than-expected state community corrections funding.The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday outlined the likely impacts of a $7.7 million budget hit to local law enforcement, jails and probation.

The cuts, implementing the Oregon Legislature's budget approved in July, will be voted on Thursday. As planned, they'll lead to shutting down 73 out of the county's already low number jail beds, and elimination of about two dozen positions. It's unclear how many people will be laid off.

The changes are the result of cuts adopted by the state combined with over-optimistic budgeting by the county, officials said. The county board had adopted its own budget expecting state community corrections funds to grow by $2.3 million, accounting for increases in the cost of labor and other services.

Instead the state cut the county's share of the funds by $5.4 million, leading to the local impact of $7.7 million.

According to the county, the largest hit in positions will fall on the Department of Community Justice, with as many as 19 positions being cut among probation and parole officers, counselors and managers.

The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, will cut 7.2 corrections deputy positions leading to the closing of what amounts to an entire jail dorm. The 73 beds cut amount to a 6 percent reduction to the current total of 1,192 beds — a historic low that has prompted repeated warnings from Sheriff Mike Reese, as well as complaints from corrections deputies that dangerous people are going free.

Starting in 1995, led by then-Sheriff Dan Noelle, the county dramatically boosted the number of jail beds available from 1,400 to more than 2,000. By 2016 the figure had been reduced to 1,251, and the county board, which controls the sheriff's budget, pushed to cut the figure to 1,192, its current figure.

Upon taking office in 2016, Reese noted publicly that due to its lack of jail beds the county already had one of the shortest average jail stays in the U.S. At 11.9 days in 2014, it was half the national average, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.

As a result of the new cuts, the county also will reduce the number of short-term transitional beds it had been funding for adult inmates released from custody, and cut supervision and eligibility for the Justice Reinvestment Program, which tries to keep people out of state prison.


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