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Extra jail space carved out for Country Crossings

With the help of its neighbor to the north, Jackson County will have extra jail beds available in time for this week's Country Crossings Music Festival.

About 22 lower-level Jackson County Jail inmates are slated to be transferred to Josephine County tomorrow through the weekend, according to Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler. The transfer is pending approval of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners at a Thursday morning meeting, but the transfer already has approval from Josephine County's sheriff, according to Sickler.

Sickler said Jackson County reached out to Josephine County, whose jail has about 112 extra beds — a stark contrast to Jackson County, which has 262 beds and is "at capacity every day.” Josephine County's jail is only partially open due to funding issues.

The four-day Country Crossings festival is expected to draw 20,000 participants to the Jackson County Expo in Central Point, where national country music stars Keith Urban, Jake Owen, Chris Stapleton and Luke Bryan will be among the performers. The festival starts Thursday.

Sickler said the plan is to send to Josephine County inmates who haven't had behavior problems in the Jackson County Jail.

"I don't want to send them a headache," Sickler said. "They're inmates that can get along and have proven they can toe the line."

Previous Bi-Mart-sponsored country music festivals such as the Cape Blanco Country Music Festival held went "pretty smooth" according to Sickler. The extra capacity is a proactive move, according to Sickler, saying it made sense to have added capacity considering the sold-out crowds, heat and the availability of alcohol.

“Our valley’s already taxed with regards to corrections capacity, and we wanted to make sure we’ve thought of everything,” Sickler said. 

"We just don't know what's going to happen," Sickler said. "We just want to make sure we're prepared."

To cover Josephine County staff overtime costs, the agreement calls for Jackson County to pay $65 per inmate per day through the weekend, according to the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Sickler said details as to when and how the inmates would be transferred are kept confidential for staff safety, saying only that the transfers would happen "this week" and that they'd be "just for a few days."

Josephine County uses only about 150 of its 262 beds because the county lacks resources to staff the jail to capacity. 

When asked whether longer-term arrangements could be a solution to jail overcrowding in Jackson County, Sickler said there's no plan in place, though the relationship with Josephine County is strengthening. 

"It is a good first step in a partnership with a newer sheriff," Sickler said. “They have an opportunity right now, because they have room and we have a need.”

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.