The county was depending on Measure 28 to fund food, utilities and, most importantly, the staff to hold and process inmates. Without that money, the sheriff's department has been forced to prioritize who to hold and who to let go. Lt. Michael Shults of the sheriff's department explains the sheriff's office now gives each person a release score; a rating measuring the severity of the criminal charge.
"It is common that when they get arrested, they want to know their release score," he said. "They ask us, 'Are you guys full tonight?'" Shults then added, "Portland's growing, and unless things change with people behaving themselves, this is going to be an ongoing problem."
So far, the department has avoided releasing inmates involved with "person-to-person" crimes. Most of the recent inmates released were arrested for "nuisance" crimes, such as car thefts and drug possession and distribution. Many, points out Shults, are repeat offenders.
Since the recent releases of inmates, cops say they must work twice as hard to detain the same criminals. Before budget cuts, a person arrested was commonly held until his or her arraignment and court date. But now, most are released on their own reconnaissance. If the released inmates skip their court dates, they must be picked up on a warrant; but this is costly and frustrating to cops on the beat who are now catching the same criminals twice.
"If you don't have the jail beds to hold the criminals, you don't have a criminal justice system," concluded Shults.