County could rent out jail space

Maintenance on Linn County's jail could create short-term need for beds

POLK COUNTY -- Polk County commissioners gave the go-ahead April 2 for Sheriff Bob Wolfe to discuss renting jail space to Linn County inmates.

As Linn County's jail needs maintenance, Sheriff David Burright has considered other jails to hold temporarily some of its inmates.

The inmates would be those awaiting sentencing and low-risk offenders, Wolfe said.

Polk County's new jail averages around 130 inmates. It has a capacity of 185.

Polk County could take up to 60 of Linn's inmates, Wolfe said. Up to 30 could stay in the old county jail, across Jefferson Street.

Polk County commissioners attached conditions to any deal. Linn County inmates would not be released in Polk County.

Polk jail officials would not release any of their own inmates to make room for the visitors. "If we run out of room in our jail, they have to find room somewhere else," said Commissioner Mike Propes.

The jail rental could last 90 days, with a maximum extension of 60 more days if the Linn jail remodeling ran into snags.

The idea is still in its infancy, Wolfe said. But he estimated Linn County would pay $60 per day for each inmate.

He assigned a ball-park figure of $270,000 for Polk County. That amount would hold 50 inmates for 90 days at the $60 rate.

Any agreement sheriffs Wolf and Burright reach would come back to county commissioners for final approval. Polk commissioners expressed a desire not to rent the jail for any long-term projects.

Wolfe agrees. "We don't have to rent beds in order to operate," he said. "It's just that we have space, they have the need, and they helped us out years ago."

In the 1980s, Polk County had no facilities for female inmates, Wolfe said. Linn and other surrounding county jails accepted Polk women.

Later, when the old Polk County jail's male population grew too large, Linn County's jail took some of the overflow.

The new Polk County jail opened in 1999.

Burright said he hasn't talked to other county sheriffs this early in the process. He hopes work on the Linn jail will start within the next six months, but he can't say for sure.

That jail can hold 230 inmates. At last count, Burright said, it had 202.

If Burright needs the space, Polk County's jail makes the most sense, Wolfe said. "We're not as full as some other jails. And he and I are good friends."

The two sheriffs also share the "Sheriff of the Year" title from the Oregon State Sheriff's Association.

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