Deschutes County

Deschutes renting Madras jail beds as project nears

Upcoming expansion to include new units for mentally ill

Deschutes Co. Jail plans special unit for mentally ill

BEND, Ore. - Right now, most of the housing options at the Deschutes County Jail are dorms -- and that's a problem.

"When we originally designed the jail we didn't anticipate the numbers (of people) that we would see that were high risk medical need or high risk behavioral health," said Sheriff's Captain Michael Espinoza on Monday.

The Deschutes County Jail has been bursting at the seams for some time now. It's seen a drastic increase in the number of mentally ill inmates in the last few years --inmates that often must be housed separately, even if there's open beds in a dorm.

Last April, the county began renting jail beds from Jefferson County.

On Monday, the sheriff's office asked county commissioners to approve an additional year, renting 10 beds at nearly $64 a day per inmate.

Housing an inmate at the Deschutes County Jail costs more than $100 per inmate, per day.

But as far as sending inmates to Madras, Espinoza said there are more expenses than just renting the beds, including transportation dollars and the extra administrative and staff work to get them there.

"It is an additional cost to our budget and the taxpayers, but we found the most cost-effective means to dealing with the situation," Espinoza said Monday.

County commissioners approved the measure Monday.

"It's a little bit of a commute to get people back and forth, but it's the right solution for us at this point," Commissioner Tony DeBone said.

It's how the county is making do until an expansion and remodel of the jail is complete: -- an $8 million project that will add 144 new beds to the 228-bed jail.

"We can construct a housing unit that is especially identified for medical and behavioral health needs," Espinoza said.

The expansion will also add a new housing unit for women. Espinoza said the population of female inmates has also increased in the last couple of years.

For now, the only other option is letting inmates out early, something Espinoza says they'll avoid at all costs.

"Our philosophy is, if someone is going to be arrested, or needs to be incarcerated, then we're going to do everything we can to make sure we have a bed," he said.

Designs for the expansion are nearly complete. The jail is adding a wing on the south side and also will do some remodeling.

Espinoza said they'll break ground this late summer and the work should be done by the fall of fall 2014.

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