County looks at options for more jail beds

I read every day in the felony arrest section and am alarmed at the number of criminals released each day. Our county obviously needs more jail space and beds. Are there any plans to build a new, much larger county jail?

— Mike P., Medford


Yes, it is alarming, Mike, and Jackson County would like to do something about it. As usual, it all comes down to money.

Capt. Dan Penland with the Jackson County Jail said county officials are hoping to open an additional 60 beds in the basement of the jail by late summer 2017. The jail now has 230 beds available.

"The sheriff's goal is to open them next year," Penland said.

A stopgap solution to add more beds is to retrofit the old jail in Talent, but that would require more manpower, Penland said.

"The more facilities you have, the more staff you need," he said.

If the county built a whole new jail, White City, where the sheriff's headquarters is located, would be a possible location. However, a jail out there would be a long way from the courts, and Medford police would have to go farther to transport prisoners.

Some 10 years ago, the sheriff's department studied how big of a jail would be needed, and the estimate was 500 to 600 beds, Penland said. He said he figures the county would likely need more beds than that because the population has grown over the past 10 years.

Penland said the county is having informal discussions about possibilities for a new jail, but it would take at least five years before it could be built. A very rough estimate of the cost could be $30 million to $50 million, Penland said. And that amount doesn't include staffing.

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