Umatilla County Jail seeks state funding to reduce overcrowding - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Umatilla County Jail seeks state funding to reduce overcrowding

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UMATILLA COUNTY, OR - The Umatilla County Jail is bursting at the seams; currently over capacity by more than a hundred inmates. Right now, officers there are doing what they can to maintain order.

"It's not just Umatilla County," said Sheriff Terry Rowan with the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office. "It's a national problem."

A national problem that Sheriff Rowan tells us has made its way to jails near us.

"The overcrowding that we are seeing is because of the demographics that law enforcement are booking into our facility," said Sheriff Rowan.

Theirs is a fully stocked jail meant to house 135 inmates - but currently houses 252. This is because officers have seen a spike in inmates coming in with a mental disorder, or struggling with addiction or a medical disability. This leaves officers with their hands full and unable to appropriately care for those with a disability.

So the Umatilla Jail came up with a plan. A program that would create separate housing geared towards rehabilitating inmates struggling with a disorder.

"We would move them to another larger holding cell," Sheriff Rowan said.

Finding more space seems easy enough, but Sheriff Rowan says it's not that simple. This requires money from the state.

"[They are] are not suitable for general population. In our county, we are always struggling with resources, but at the same time, what we are trying to do is hold offenders accountable."

He also says a lot of times inmates will attend court, serve their time, but then come right back in...and what it all boils down to is...

"The more limited resources available to address this issue," said Sheriff Rowan.

Until resources are provided, officers are left with an overcapacity jail, making do with what they can. Sheriff Rowan says their plan isn't to release inmates on the streets, regardless of how overcrowded they are. Their priority is to protect the people who live in Umatilla County.

But the hope is that state legislators will somehow, some way, find funds to kick-start the program they are currently working on.

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