Ore. judge limits jail booking criteria to reduce inmate population
Officers won't book anyone unless they're charged with an offense in a list of certain felonies and misdemeanors that are crimes committed against other people
By Jaimie Ding
MULTNOMAH COUNTY, Ore. — Multnomah County officials are working to reduce jail populations after a recent COVID-19 outbreak by limiting new arrests, releasing some inmates early and delaying sentences.
The outbreak has infected more than 140 inmates at the Multnomah County Inverness Jail since the beginning of the year, leading to an outcry from inmates and public defenders.
The county reduced the overall population at the downtown Multnomah County Detention Center and the Northeast Portland Inverness Jail by 30% at the start of the pandemic, but inmates and staff still reported a crowded environment that did not allow for adequate social distancing.
A presiding judge order signed Feb. 11 allows police officers to issue a citation in place of an arrest for all misdemeanors, excluding ones with mandatory arrest requirements. The order, signed by Presiding Judge Stephen K. Bushong of Multnomah County Circuit Court, took effect immediately and will remain until March 15.
The order also excludes so-called “person” misdemeanors that include crimes committed against another person, such as stalking, driving under the influence of intoxicants, fourth-degree assault and menacing.
Sheriff Mike Reese sent out a special order to deputies and partnering agencies the next day reinforcing the court guidelines.
According to the order, officers will not book anyone into jail unless they are charged with an offense in a list of certain felonies and misdemeanors that are crimes committed against other people, excluding charges like car theft and possessing a firearm as a felon. Authorities will also continue to make mandatory arrests under Oregon law, such as in domestic violence cases.
“Over the past year, we’ve asked release agencies to cite in lieu of custody on property crime offenses and misdemeanor crimes,” Reese said at a press conference last week. The new presiding judge order will formalize these practices, he said.
The sheriff’s office will also assemble a list of inmates with less than two weeks left of their jail sentence, according to an email obtained by The Oregonian/ Oregon Live sent to all staff in the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.
The email said the office would review the list with a “strong probability of not objecting to their release.”
Prosecutors will also prioritize cases where the defendant is in custody and will re-evaluate positions on whether to release a defendant, the email said. The office will not seek jail time for probation violations or sentencing unless a specific case demands it.
Alternative options to jail could include community service, treatment or fines, according to Josh Lamborn, a former Multnomah County prosecutor.
Reese said the sheriff’s office is working with the district attorney’s office to release inmates being held for violating probation. They have also coordinated with U.S. Marshals the transfer to a different facility of 20 Inverness inmates being held on federal court matters.
The district attorney’s office will recommend setting a sentence to begin at a later date to delay booking low-level offenders into jail, the email said. This is sometimes done in order to give someone time to prepare before turning themselves in by a certain date to serve their sentence.
As of Thursday, Feb. 11, nine dorms at Inverness were still on lockdown either due to active cases or inmates needing to quarantine.
The county is working to coordinate places for inmates to quarantine safely if they are released from jail, said spokesperson Julie Sullivan-Springhetti.
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