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Grand Jury (Day 15) – Overflow

August 8th, 2005 by dk

On a typical day in Eugene, five dozen criminals are walking the streets because the jail is overflowing. What’s more, most of these people were brought to Eugene (where the jail is) from other towns in Lane County, where they got picked up for doing bad things. They are given free transportation to the jail, then released because of overcrowding, but without transportation back to the town they came from. All of Lane County provides one-way transportation into Eugene for the bad guys awaiting trial.

People are talking about moving the fairgrounds out of downtown, because it’s not good to have farm animals so close to so many people. What about animals of a different sort, loose on the street, mixing with people downtown for dining or a show? How about moving the jail to the outskirts instead? Junction City and Veneta are wanting to build housing as fast as they can; maybe they’d like the little population boost that accompanies a crime wave.

If the Lane County Commissioners were serious about passing a public safety measure in the next year or two, they would implore the daily paper to publish every day the number of criminals released from jail on the previous day. (Buy ads if you have to.) If people knew that number every day the way they know the price of gas (to the tenth of a penny) or the Dow Jones Industrial Average, then crime would be real to them before they were victimized.

If that’s too expensive or confrontational, how about this? The Pre-Trial Release Supervisor could update a message machine daily to inform those who cared to call how many “capacity-based releases” were issued in the previous 24 hours. Numbers often numb the public, but only when the numbers are so large or so random or so abstract that the audience cannot attach meaning to them. But a daily accounting of the shortage of local holding cells would be none of those three.

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