Jackson County officials are making plans to lease 55 jail beds to other agencies, a move that could bring approximately $2.2 million in badly needed revenue.
Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan said he hopes to have the deal in place in the coming weeks. He is negotiating with a handful of law enforcement agencies to house their inmates in the Jackson County Jail. "This fulfills two functions for us," Jordan said. "We need the additional jail space, and we need the revenue."
The jail has finished a 60-bed expansion that came after the Jackson County Sheriff's Department administration and detective divisions relocated to a site on Highway 62 near White City. They previously were in the jail basement, which has been converted to holding cells for 60 inmates.
Many of the new beds will be turned over to federal agencies, and the money will help fill Jackson County coffers, Jordan said. "If you do the math, if we lease out the 55 beds, it will bring in $2.2 million in revenue per year," Jordan said.
The county would net $1.5 million annually, Jordan said.
The jail already has begun leasing out 22 beds to the U.S. Marshals Service for $105 per bed per day. The goal is to lease more beds to agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and federal parole and probation, as well as non-federal agencies, to fill another 33 beds. (Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the variety of federal and non-federal agencies that might lease jail beds.)
The additional revenue would be used in part to pay for the jail's $10 million expansion. After the expansion bill is paid, the money would go into the county's general fund, which finances everything from the Sheriff's Department to libraries, Jordan said.
"At this point, the jail expansion will pay for itself in about six or seven years," Jordan said. "It's a pretty good investment for the county."
The county has proposed deep budget cuts for the next fiscal year, including a $250,000 cut to the Sheriff's Department, which is on top of 22 sheriff's positions that will remain unfilled. Libraries are facing the prospect of total closure within two years if a secure and steady source of funding is not found. The jail leases will not fill the budget hole immediately but will help offset the shortfalls in the long term.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said federal agencies are eager to lease the beds because the federal court is located blocks away from the jail.
"It saves them from having to transport inmates from all over Southern Oregon just so they make a 20-minute appearance in our federal court," Winters said.
If any beds come open for a period of time, they will be used by local agencies, Winters said.
"If a federal agency is not using a bed, then we'll place a local suspect there," Winters said. "The added space should help with our forced releases."
The jail is forced to cut loose several inmates per week because of space restrictions. Winters said he expects the federal agencies to keep most of their allotted beds occupied, so it won't eliminate the majority of the county's early releases.
"They are pretty busy all the time with federal inmates," he said. "We expect those beds to be used the majority of the time. This will bring in significant revenue for this county."
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email@example.com.