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On June 16, Portland Copwatch was invited to attend a special meeting called by the Multnomah County Counsel and the Sheriff's Office (MCSO). It seems that in light of the increased jail population following Oregon's "tough-on-crime" measure 11, the MCSO is interested in removing a federal cap currently placed on the number of inmates they can house in the downtown Justice Center. The current cap is 476 people. They want to add 265 bunk beds (in cells built for one inmate), bringing the total number of beds to 741.

However, they would only be asking the cap be raised to 676, assuring the Federal Court and the general public that at the time of their once-a-day head count (4 AM), they would never exceed that number of inmates, and the extra 65 beds would be empty.

In addition to our concerns that double-bunking in these cells may violate constitutional rights, we also noted that the release of non-violent offenders of victimless crimes would probably free up enough jail space that they wouldn't NEED to double bunk.

The Multnomah Defenders seemed to be very concerned that more inmates would mean additional waiting time to talk to their clients. The ACLU of Oregon listened patiently and is analyzing the legal ramifications of the MCSO proposal.

Members of the Sheriff's Office seemed surprised when Copwatch's representative mentioned that crime has actually been decreasing in the last few years. (For instance, the January 25, 1997 Oregonian reported a 10.4% drop in serious crime in Portland for 1996.)

Sheriff Dan Noelle wrote a long piece which appeared in the July Rap Sheet explaining the situation and what he sees as a need to raise the federal cap. He cited instances where they had to put inmates on the floor at the East County Inverness jail. As a solution, he points to "successes" of the past few years, including renting space in Grant county jails and literally bunking inmates in a warehouse. He also cites as a problem the 1000 plus drug cases coming from the downtown police drug sweeps. While the PPB apparently times the arrests to coincide with low jail populations, when arrestees come in with a "detain for INS" status, the MCSO has to put a mandatory hold on them (see related story on INS raids this issue). [Side note: The INS pays for the jail space until deportation hearings, but the MCSO needs the space.]

A lot of overflow is also coming from SB1145, a bill initiated by Governor Kitzhaber to ease the effects of Measure 11 on the state prison system. (Noelle referred to the Governor's law as a "piece of shit" in the June 11 Willamette Week.)

The County claims that there is enough money in the budget for extra staffing to handle and care for the additional inmates should they be allowed to double-bunk. A member of the ACLU wisely suggested that if the cap does get lifted and future budget cuts reduce the staff, the cap should automatically be reduced again.

We also encouraged a civilian oversight system of some kind, not only to make sure that the limits are met properly, but also for oversight of the inmates' treatment. This system should include a mechanism for complaints against the MCSO. There was no immediate response to this idea.

The County does have plans for 150-300 beds for Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation with counselling, and other "community" alternatives such as electronic monitoring (which has its own set of constitutional questions). And of course they're supposed to expand Inverness and build a new state prison in 1998.

Copwatch encourages you to get involved, and to let the Sheriff know that solutions to public problems do not include warehousing people. Suggest that the "matrix" be rewritten to release non- violent offenders of victimless crimes to help ease his financial woes.

Sheriff Noelle's phone number is 251-2400. Or call Steve Nemirow at the Multnomah County Counsel: 248-3138.

  [People's Police Report]

August, 1997
Also in PPR #12

Chief Undoes Council Misconduct Vote
Police Shootings, Shootings of Police
 • 18 Years: One Dead Cop, 100s of Dead Workers
 • What is a Hero?

Drug-Free Zones Modified
Day Laborers Resist Immigration Raids
Sheriff Wants Double-Bunking in Jail
Eugene Cops Attack Peaceful Tree-Sit
Updates PPR #12:
 • Beanbag Bullets Now on the Beat
 • Special Duty
 • Pepper Spray to be Banned in Berkeley?
 • Cop-Friendly Capitalism
 • Police Spying Update (again!)
 • Hawthorne Copwatching Update
 • Grant to Copwatch: Update

Report: National Conference in Phillie
Quick Flashes PPR #12:
 • Slap on the Wrist for Rapist Cop
 • Sacramento Cops Target Zapatista Supporters
 • ACLU Updates Police Abuse Manual
 • Portland Copwatch in Media, at Conference

Reviews of 'Zines
Rapping Back #12

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #12 Table of Contents
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