More than 900 inmates have been let out of Portland’s Multnomah County jails this year due to crowding, eight times the number released in the past two years combined, sheriff’s officials said Tuesday, the Oregonian reports. Inmates are released when the jails reach 95 percent capacity to make room for people facing more serious charges. The astounding spike this year — 908 releases to date, up from 82 in 2011 and 25 in 2010 — has drawn the attention of public safety leaders. A grand jury report yesterday raised alarm about emergency releases.
The increase in emergency releases should “not be viewed as an anomaly, but rather as a serious upward trend,” the grand jury said. Judges, prosecutors, community justice and sheriffs officials have convened a group to figure out what’s driving the increase and what should be done to curtail it. “It’s of great concern,” said Peter Ozanne of the county’s Local Public Safety Coordinating Council. “We’re trying to address the problem without any more delay. What should be of concern is people who are released with serious criminal histories, which raises an issue of public safety.”