Lane County, Or., Sheriff Tom Turner spent three days last week watching groups of prisoners — 30 at a time — walk out of his jail into broad daylight, The Oregonian reports. Three of the freed were awaiting trail for homicide. He wrapped up the week Friday bidding adieu to 40 staffers, another result of the county’s steep budget cuts. He only half-jokingly wondered that afternoon why he sought his job.
Congress on Friday approved $100 million for financially strapped Oregon counties like Turner’s under a timber payments program, but it’s likely too little, too late to reverse the cuts that he and other officials across the state have had to make. The scene at Turner’s jail has played out elsewhere in Oregon and might again in coming years. In May, Josephine County released 39 inmates after the defeat of a tax levy to support local law enforcement. To determine which prisoners he’d let go, Turner used a Risk Assessment Tool that evaluates inmates’ dangerousness and likelihood to return behind bars based on their alleged offense, criminal history, home environment, and other measures of stability.