As cities across America file for bankruptcy and emergency services personnel all over the nation are laid off, some local and state governments are being forced to make tough decisions. In Oregon this week 92 prisoners, some of them murderers, were released from prison because of a lack of funds to operate a 507 bed facility in Lake County.
“It was horrifying,” says Lane County Sheriff Tom Turner. “All the effort to get those people into the jail is now gone, wasted.”
Among those released with only an electronic ankle bracelet was 33-year old Aaron Curry, who police say admitted he killed a man who had taken him in. He’s awaiting trial on a charge of second-degree manslaughter in the beating death of 46-year old Alan Platt. The victim’s relatives were stunned by Curry’s release. “We want justice,” says Platt’s sister, Alison Cavarra. “We want Aaron locked back up until trial like anybody else who has committed one of these crimes, or is accused of this crime.”
Lane County is filling less than a third of its jail beds following the elimination of 64 positions in the Sheriff’s Department. Twenty-eight deputies have been laid off, forcing the sheriff to also cut back on patrols. There are now 6-8 hours every day when citizens may call for help from a deputy, but there won’t be anyone on duty to respond.
So how did the county find itself in such a financial mess? Leaders blame a small tax base. “We simply don’t pay enough taxes to pay for enough of a service,” says Turner.
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