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No Fiscal Cliff Deal Could Cause Jails to Release Inmates

No Fiscal Cliff Deal Could Cause Jails to Release Inmates

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Published by: tuffstuff49 on Dec 29, 2012
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No Fiscal Cliff Deal Could Cause Jails To
Release Inmates
 
December 25, 2012 5:57 AM
EUGENE, Ore. (AP)
 
A scenario that police inwestern Oregon feared came true in the thick of holiday season after two dozen inmates werefreed from a county jail that could no longer afford to hold them.Less than an hour after one low-level offender walked out, authorities say, he was demanding
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that a bank teller hand over money.In a time of budget cuts, cases where inmatesget out of jail with little punishment only tocommit more serious crimes shortly after their release have become all too common,authorities say.Many in law enforcement predicted this wouldhappen, and it could get worse if the nationgoes over the so-called fiscal cliff.The recession and a steady reduction in federalsubsidies to timber counties have led Oregonsheriffs and district attorneys to juggle deepcuts. There are fewer jail beds, sheriff 
s patrols,prosecutors, parole officers and specialized investigators.Prosecutors have to toss out more than a quarter of the cases thatcross their desks, just because there aren
t enough people to handlethem.
It makes me crazy,
said Patricia Perlow, chief deputy district attorneyfor Lane County.When Christopher Franklin Weaver was released the week after Thanksgiving it represented the sort of decision that has becomeroutine for law enforcement officials. There wasn
t enough room for allthe offenders, and since he was in custody on a nonviolent paroleviolation, he was deemed safe enough to turn loose.
Everybody we
re releasing is dangerous to society,
said LaneCounty Sheriff Tom Turner.
But we
re having to choose which onesto keep and which ones to let out.
  As common as such lesser-of-two-evils calls have become, authoritiescould find themselves making them more often depending on whathappens in the nation
s capital. If the ongoing budget negotiationsbetween Republican House Speaker John Boehner and PresidentBarack Obama end without an agreement and automatic spendingreductions kick in, it would trigger an 8 percent cut in nearly $2 billionin federal grants that go to state and local law enforcement.That would come on top of $1.5 billion cuts to federal law enforcementgrants since fiscal 2010, said Elizabeth Pyke, director of governmentaffairs for the National Criminal Justice Association.
It would not be unreasonable to envision a day in the not too distantfuture when federal support for state and local law enforcement will bevirtually eliminated,
she said. As the details get workedout, the grants could takeeven deeper cuts, asappropriators shift fundingto higher priority agenciessuch as the FBI. Over thenext nine years of theBudget Control Act of 2011, the slashes wouldbecome deeper anddeeper.
Every time we have abudget cut, we have to getcreative,
said LaneCounty sheriff 
s Sgt. Rob
File photo of a prison cell. (credit: Frank Micelotta/GettyImages)
Filed Under
 AP News,News 
Related Tags
fiscal cliff ,inmates,Jail, Police 
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White.
But we
re gettingpretty good at it.
 In Oregon timber country,where voters haveconsistently refused to raise taxes to make up for sharp revenuedrops, jail commanders already are making the best use they can of aprotocol affectionately known as
the RAT.
 Their risk assessment tool ranks inmates based on nearly 80questions about their criminal history and other factors to predict howlikely they are to reoffend.Weaver 
s ranking put him in the middle of the 30 released that day. After holding up the bank, he walked out with nearly $500 stuffed inhis back pocket, authorities say.Police spotted him on the street within minutes, and after a footchase, Weaver was back in jail, where he is not likely to be let out anytime soon
there is plenty of room, according to officials, for someone facing a federal bank robbery charge.Weaver remains in custody and was not available for comment. Hehas not been indicted on the most recent arrest and has not beenasked to enter a plea. His next court date has not been scheduled.Repeated attempts to reach his lawyer, Craig E. Weinerman, for comment were not successful.Former Coburg police officer Michael Anson regularly broughtcriminal suspects to the Lane County Jail.
I
d bring somebody in the back door, and watch
em walk out thefront,
he said.Now he owns a metal fabrication business, which has been hit by twoburglaries, neither of which he bothered to report because he figurednothing would happen. When crime hits, he said,
you deal andadjust.
 For Perlow, the county
s chief assistant prosecutor, further cuts wouldbe untenable.
Unless somebody buys a winning Powerball ticket and donates it tothe county,
she said.
We are going to need a secure continuousfunding source.
 
© 
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
 
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