Lower criminal release rate after levy reopens jail beds

      EUGENE, Ore. -- After last year's tax levy opened up bed space at the Lane County Jail officials are saying there are fewer chances for criminals to become repeat offenders.

      Figures show that from the beginning of 2013 through July 7, almost 2600 offenders were released simply because there wasn't enough room at the jail. Through the rest of the year, 830 offenders were released because of over-crowding.

      That's because on July 8 the Lane County Jail got funding from a bond levy to reopen 131 jail beds.

      "When they're in custody, they're not in the community committing additional crimes," said Eugene Police Sgt. Steve French. "You have a decrease in the number of contacts they have with police officers on the outside and a decrease in the number of court appearances."

      Sgt. French said when offenders are held accountable for their actions, they're not constantly cycled through the system, something that has a trickle-down effect of savings.

      The re-opened jail beds are a temporary fix. County commissioner Sid Leiken said the county is still working on a draft of a 10 year public safety plan.

      "We have the levy passed, great news, that's the immediate need, that's really what that is. But there's so much more to deal with in Lane County as far as public safety's concerned," said Leiken.

      Leiken says the plan model will build on the bond levy, and hopes it will help make Lane County safer. A rough draft of that plan should be made public at the end of January.