The jail is the foundation of the criminal justice system and has been inadequately serving our valley for the past 37 years. The jail is too small, its design is antiquated, and it is inefficient to operate. When a jail is not large enough to serve its community, the entire criminal justice system is compromised. Patrol officers often spend their time responding to criminal complaints or serving warrants instead of pro-actively patrolling and deterring crime. The district attorney and the public defender offices are inundated with cases, often by repeat offenders, which in turn spreads resources thin.
The courts are burdened with excessive arraignment dockets and plagued with individuals who fail to appear for their court dates. This causes a drain on resources that impact not only patrol services, but also the jail, the Medford Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office records divisions and the civil division. Alternatives to custody, such as work release and parole and probation, are also compromised due to the lack of jail space and inability to hold offenders accountable when they violate terms of their probation or pre-trial release agreements.
Individuals who suffer from mental health and addiction issues are quickly cycled in and out of the jail due to overcrowding and windows of opportunity to connect these people up with services are missed. This issue causes repeat offenses and further taxes all aspects of the criminal justice system.
A new jail, infused with technology and proper design will streamline operations, enable mental health and addiction treatment, and create opportunity for programs to assist in reducing recidivism. I have been advocating for additional jail space since I was promoted to the rank of Captain in 2015 and as your Sheriff, I have been working diligently on addressing this issue through collaboration with our criminal justice partners and county officials.
Since Measure 91 was passed by the voters, our valley has been saturated with marijuana grows. This has caused numerous issues associated with criminal activity, such as robbery, theft, unlawful distribution, and assaults. Non-criminal issues are also prevalent, and encompass land and water use issues, noise complaints and neighbor disputes. These issues affect livability and I have a specific plan to dedicate staffing. Once we fill vacancies, we will begin addressing these problems by working with our partner agencies, such as the O.L.C.C., County Code Enforcement, and Oregon State Police. I am also a member of the newly formed Marijuana Advisory Committee and I am optimistic we will have a positive impact on this growing issue.
Since I was selected to be your Sheriff, I have made efforts to address the Bear Creek Greenway by facilitating a collaborative effort between law enforcement, parks departments, mental health professionals, Veterans Affairs, and other social services. We want to enforce our laws but also provide options for those who wish to take advantages of the services available. In January of 2018, a Continuum of Care Board was formed to combine resources and efforts in developing ways to provide opportunities for the homeless population in Jackson County. I am a member of this board and currently part of the workgroup that will focus on Discharge Policies. This group will focus on developing strategies to discharge homeless individuals from either emergency rooms or jail into a shelter or other housing.
Law Enforcement has changed dramatically over the past decade and recruiting and retaining qualified individuals is a challenge many agencies face across the nation. Though police applicant pools are not as deep as they once were, I am happy to report we are nearly fully staffed. This is impressive given the fact our county had three different Sheriffs over a two-year period. To accomplish this, we have significantly improved and streamlined our hiring practices without compromising our standards.
The Sheriff’s Office is as professional and progressive as it has ever been, and we have been focusing on providing a positive and healthy work environment for your greatest investment; our employees. This approach has attracted qualified and professional men and women who have chosen to serve our valley. Maintaining our staffing levels is a priority for the Sheriff’s Office and it is the key to providing the level of service the residents of Jackson County deserve.