Thursday, March 29, 2012
Clatsop County Jail Expansion - Ballot Measure 4-156
JAIL EXPANSION PROJECT - Ballot Measure 4-156
Ballot Measure 4-156, on the May 15, 2012 election ballot, proposes a $14 million bond to expand the Clatsop County Jail.
The Clatsop County Jail, located at 636 Duane St. in downtown Astoria, opened in 1980 with a maximum capacity of 29 beds. That number was later increased to 64 by double-bunking and converting other space into cells. In 2005 the daily population was capped at 60, due to concerns about staff and inmate safety
What is the proposed project?
· Expand and remodel the existing Clatsop County Jail to increase capacity from 60 to 164 beds and add units to hold inmates with contagious illnesses, mental health issues and behavioral problems separate from the main population;
· Provide new jail staff offices, intake and booking space, kitchen and laundry facilities and new entryways for offenders and the public.
· Remodel the existing Parole and Probation office in Warrenton to accommodate the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Division and support staff, who are currently housed in the lower level of the jail facility.
In the illustration above, the existing jail is shown in blue; the proposed addition is shown in white.
The construction schedule calls for the project to be completed by the end of 2014.
How much would it cost?
The total estimated cost, including design, permits, construction and contingency fund, is $14,114,118.14. Funding would come primarily from a $14 million, 20-year general obligation bond – the remainder of the cost would be covered by the county’s state timber revenue.
The tax rate for the bond would be an estimated 16.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, equal to an estimated $ 31.23 per year for the average owner of a property assessed at $ 189,291.
What would it cost to operate the expanded jail?
The expanded jail would cost an estimated $1,266,300 more per year to operate than the current facility. The increase is reflected in a larger jail staff, which would grow from the current 25.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) personnel to 34 FTE, as well as increases in supply and maintenance costs.
That increase would be offset with savings in other areas, including money now spent to rent jail beds in Tillamook County. Those savings would total an estimated $391,200, for an estimated net increase in annual operating expenses of $875,100.
As a comparison, in the 2010-11 fiscal year Clatsop County operated the 60 jail beds and 30-bed Transition Center at a total operating cost of $122.32 per bed per day. The operating costs of the expanded 164-bed jail is estimated to be $72.42 per bed per day.
To cover those additional operating costs, the county plans to use a portion of its annual revenue from the Clatsop State Forest, which would results in no additional taxes or cuts to existing services for county residents.
What is the jail’s current capacity?
The Clatsop County Jail currently operates at a 60-inmate capacity. The county also rents 18 beds at the Tillamook County Jail in Tillamook. By law the county can exceed the 60-inmate cap, but only for up to 96 hours. At times the population of the jail has reached 74 – the extra inmates are accommodated with portable beds placed on the floor.
With the current number of beds available, the Sheriff’s Office frequently must release convicted offenders before the end of their sentences due to lack of space – in December 2011, 81 inmates were released early.
The same goes for people in jail awaiting trials or hearings. In 2011 a total of 97 people were released before their scheduled court appearances.
People on parole or probation who commit violations of the terms of their supervision that would warrant jail sentences are frequently not incarcerated because no beds are available at the jail to hold them.
The Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office currently has almost 1,200 outstanding arrest warrants on file, most of which have not been served due to lack of space in the jail.
In 2010, 40 percent of people booked into Clatsop County Jail served less than one day behind bars. Offenders who have been released from the jail before the end of their sentences due to lack of space include people convicted of domestic violence assaults, first-degree burglary and drug-selling.
The 164-bed capacity of the expanded facility is designed to provide space for sentenced offenders to serve their full terms, with some additional beds for parole and probation violators and people arrested on warrants.
What other changes would be made?
The current configuration of the county jail limits the ability of staff to separate the population based on gender, criminal classification and other factors, as well as to isolate inmates with contagious illnesses, mental health issues or behavioral problems. At times, the need to isolate certain inmates for security reasons means that the total population is held below the 60-inmate maximum.
Since the jail opened in 1980, the average number of female inmates has increased from 1 or 2 to approximately 25 percent of the total population. Male and female inmates must be held separately in the facility.
The project would remodel the existing jail facility to increase room for all classifications of inmates. It would also add more isolation cells for inmates with illness or behavioral issues.
Are there alternative programs?
Clatsop County and our local circuit courts operate several programs designed to provide an alternative to incarceration for local offenders, including Drug Court and Mental Health Court. Plus, Sheriff’s Office Parole and Probation supervises 419 people.
The Sheriff’s Office has also instituted an inmate work crew program, electronic monitoring (home arrest) and day reporting as jail alternatives, in part due to the jail’s lack of space.
Alternative programs like Drug Court are designed to help people break the cycle of substance abuse and other behaviors that frequently contribute to criminal activity, by offering the chance to clear a criminal charge off their record in return for successfully completing a treatment program. With the lack of space in the county jail, there are limited options to sanction program participants if they fail to abide by the programs’ conditions.
Why not just rent more beds elsewhere?
The county currently rents 18 beds in the Tillamook County Jail at a cost of $355,000 a year. Renting 104 beds – the amount that would be added to the Clatsop County Jail in the expansion project – at the $55 per bed per day rate charged by Tillamook would cost more than $2 million a year, assuming the beds were available in other counties at the same rate.
The $355,000 figure does not include the costs in money, time and manpower it takes to transport offenders to and from Tillamook.
Would the jail be shut down during the project?
The project has been designed to be constructed in phases that would allow the jail to operate throughout the project period. No inmates would need to be relocated or released.
Why move the Sheriff’s Office staff?
Relocating the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Division and support staff to the Parole and Probation office in Warrenton would provide more working space for those 26 personnel. It also would free up the bottom level of the jail facility to accommodate enlarged work space for jail staff, as well as new intake and booking space, enlarged laundry and kitchen facilities, and a larger “sally port” entryway for vehicles transporting offenders to the jail.
Why remodel the current jail?
Utilizing the existing facility is estimated to cost one-half as much as building an all-new jail. The current jail is located next to the Clatsop County Courthouse, minimizing the transport needs for inmates making court appearances.