PRINEVILLE, OR -- Crook County Sheriff John Gautney is optimistic voters will approve a $10-million jail bond in November, but he’s not taking anything for granted. Gautney was appointed Sheriff less than a year ago, and campaigning for the bond has overshadowed the race to keep his job; although, he’s running unopposed.
Sheriff Gautney says the current jail is in a building converted from a fire station in the 1960s, and it must be replaced. "When it rains really hard, the rain leaks through the roof and it’s running down our walls; sewer system is old and outdated; and because of the size of it, we only have 16 inmates that we can hold there. We have no place for female inmates; we have to ship those to Jefferson County, to their jail." Crook County spends nearly $700,000 a year renting 25 beds from Jefferson County.
But, he says even with that overflow option, they still regularly matrix out those awaiting trial on lesser crimes to make room for more serious offenders. And, Gautney says, "As of this week, we had 98 people on a waiting list. This waiting list is people who have been to court, have been convicted in court, and a judge has sentenced them to jail time. Those people show up at the jail and say ‘I’ve been convicted and I’m here to serve my time.’ We don’t have a bed for them so we put them on a waiting list, and they’re supposed to come back and check in with us. The problem is that some people don’t want to come back and check in with us."
Construction of a 76-bed facility would cost around $17-million. The bond would pay for $10-million. The rest, Gautney says, would be covered by other partnerships, grants and loans; operating funds would come through savings achieved by ending the rental agreement with Jefferson County. Gautney says the county would also save money by building the new jail adjacent to the Sheriff's Office, on property already owned by the county. CCSO rents the current jail from the city of Prineville.
He's optimistic about the feedback he's received at community meetings held over the past month. "We did have some that were a little skeptical coming in, were not quite sure that they thought that we needed to have a jail. Quite frankly, some people don’t even know we have a jail in Crook County. We offer these tours every Friday at 2 o’clock, and I’ve had some people tell me ‘I didn’t even know the jail was in this building.’"
Two more bond measure community meetings are scheduled for next week:
- Wednesday, October 19 at 7 a.m.: Meadow Lakes Golf Course
- Thursday, October 20 at 6:30 p.m.: Meadow Lakes Golf Course (note change of venue)
If the bond passes November 8, Sheriff Gautney says plans would move forward immediately.
To hear our full conversation with Crook County Sheriff John Gautney visit our Podcast Page, or click HERE.