Long road home from county jail

2011-06-02T11:00:00Z Long road home from county jailBy Jessie Higgins, The World Coos Bay World
June 02, 2011 11:00 am  • 

The paper bag gives him away: An inmate just released.

'The first thing they ask is how late am I going to stay open," said Dustan Graham, a manager and late night bartender at the Coquille Broiler.

'Can I use the telephone? Can I cash in this change for a dollar bill?"

Two blocks east, a recently released inmate might sit on the bench outside the Highway Deli, asking customers for a ride home.

The deli won't let the releasee harass customers for long, said co-owner Carrie Sjogren. So, many end up standing along the side of state Highway 42 -- thumbs outstretched.

The issue is not uncommon in county seats. People arrested all over Coos County are booked at the county jail in downtown Coquille.

'It is a dilemma for any community who has a regional jail," said Coquille City Manager Terence O'Connor. 'You get folks that get placed in jail from Bandon, North Bend, Coos Bay, Powers, wherever, and when it is time to be released the jail opens its doors and they're here."

Coquille's location exacerbates the problem.

Coquille is almost 18 miles from Coos Bay, the county's largest town, and bus service is limited.

Ninety percent of releasees get rides home from friends or family members, said Delphine Green, Coos County jail administrator. There are few options beyond that.

A CCAT bus departs from downtown Coquille twice daily, but this is only helpful if the released prisoner can afford the $2 fare.

The city of Coquille has a program to provide emergency assistance to anyone in great need using funds provided by the Salvation Army. So it will purchase bus tickets out of town for the truly stranded, which can include released inmates. But these funds are limited and the service is not advertised either at the jail or with the bus company. No released inmate has taken advantage yet, said Interim Coquille Police Chief Janis Blue.

So, without a ride or a bus, inmates head for the more promising locations, such as the bench in front of the Highway Deli where they can ask for a ride or money.

'We get a lot of calls like that," Blue said. 'They're hanging out at the deli, bumming."

Graham tries not to call the police to the Broiler unless a situation becomes dangerous. Customers tend to disperse when police show up, and stranded releasees are usually more annoying than dangerous, he said.

'If they become a problem, are too demanding on me or are annoying the customers I ask them to leave," Graham said. 'I usually just let them hang out until I close."

Inmates lodged overnight at the jail are released in the morning between 7-7:30, giving them time to catch the morning bus out of town, which departs at 9 a.m., or find another ride, Green said.

Inmates used to be released from jail at all hours of the day, but the jail found that released prisoners were causing problems when they became stranded in Coquille overnight.

But this only pertains to scheduled releases. Police departments from across Coos County bring suspects to the jail at all hours of the day and night for citations, which can include a DUII or criminal trespassing.

For citations, the suspect is 'booked and released" whenever he or she arrives.

If the person is visibly intoxicated, he or she can only be released to a sober adult.

'If they are not impaired, we can't legally hold them," said Green. 'We've had people camp out in the lobby before. We don't make them leave in the middle of the night."

But some do.

Graham said two to three recently released inmates wander into his bar each week. He has learned to spot a releasee by the paper bag of belongings the jail sends him or her off with.

They don't always cause problems, until Graham closes the bar.

'I don't have enough time to take care of them and make sure they have a ride home," he said.

Other county jails face problems with released inmates, said David Fidanque, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.

'What you are seeing in Coquille is just a microcosm of a much larger issue, which is there -- for the most part -- just isn't any support system for people who get out of jail," Fidanque said.

The issue is less noticeable when the regional jail is located in the population center for the county. The released inmates either make their way home or disappear into city streets.

'It is more obvious in Coquille because it is relatively small and the inmates are more obvious," he said.

But other facilities do share similarities.

The Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility, NORCOR, serves four counties, including Wasco, Sherman, Wheeler and Gilliam. Depending on where he or she was arrested, a released prisoner could be several hours from home.

So, NORCOR works closely with inmates to ensure they have a ride home, or at least to the location where they were arrested.

'Early on, there was an agreement made between the four sheriffs on the board," said James Weed, NORCOR jail administrator. 'If someone was going to be released they would get them a bus ticket back to their community, or provide a ride."

NORCOR has been creative in finding rides. County Sheriff officers in town on other business play chauffeur, people heading to various places for supplies, also.

Although Coos County is a smaller geographical area, Coquille business manager, O'Connor, wishes the police departments that utilize the jail would come up with a similar arrangement.

'It would be nice to have a discussion with chiefs and the sheriff's department," O'Connor said.

But local police departments are also burdened by the jail's remote location. Whenever Coos County police make an arrest, they have to drive to Coquille.

'That is just what we have to do, we have to drive them down there and it is a drain on man power and costs," said Capt. Cal Mitts of the Coos Bay Police Department. 'It would make more sense for the jail to not be in Coquille but there is no other option."

In the meantime, Graham keeps watching for the familiar paper bag to come through his door.

'This is the type of thing I deal with every week," Graham said.

Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222 ext. 240 or jhiggins@theworldlink.com.

Copyright 2015 Coos Bay World. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. Coquillian
    Report Abuse
    Coquillian - June 04, 2011 4:06 pm
    Kay your are still way off on this one. Cheney and those are not in charge of the local pd's and the jail. The local departments that pick up the minor offenders in Coos Bay and take them to Coquille full well knowing that they will be cited and released by the JAIL could have done just the same in their own city. They are just dumping their trash elsewhere, simple as that. Sorry you can't see it.
  2. Carl
    Report Abuse
    Carl - June 04, 2011 10:50 am
    Dan, my old friend, this is about the county with juvie and the jail, not the bay. I agree that some services in the Bay Area should be consolidated, but the folks in North Bend don't care for the fee happy attitude of Coos Bay. That is why they keep voting down any attempts to combine municipalities. You are correct that we need to bring new industry into the area to fund everything. The trouble is that we don't want anything to compete with the idea of Coos County as a resource colony!
  3. cjcoos
    Report Abuse
    cjcoos - June 03, 2011 1:22 pm
    we did not get in to a irrational war. we police the world and rightfully so.. the war on terror. IF, YOU WANT BAD PRESS LOOK AT THE MENTAL MIDGETS THAT SELL KNOCK OFF PARTS IN YOUR BACK YARD. The jailed inmates gees.. look at the statutes for attatched sales taxes for services that inmates more than likely did not recieve.
  4. dan milburn
    Report Abuse
    dan milburn - June 03, 2011 1:02 pm
    NIMBY. Not In My Back Yard. Sounds familiar here. There are aspects of the judicial-social system that were intended to work hand in hand - before you all quit funding the system. There was a halfway house. There were agencies to call. There were volunteers that would drive the releases home. In Eugene they used to give them Greyhound tickets - to here!. I'm sure a few trouble makers from here got tickets to there as well. Point is, your system cant support two of everything. CONSOLIDATE NOW!
  5. Kay
    Report Abuse
    Kay - June 03, 2011 10:09 am
    Gee Coquillian, can't make it any more 'simple' for you.

    Do the crime, do the time does not apply to us all. Until those in power pay for the same crime street people pay, your argument means nothing. Hypocritical at best. You want the law upheld? Start with Bush,Cheney,Rumsfeld,etc. Here in Coos Co. we at least prosecute murder and bank robbing, remember?

    Oh! but Coq. thank you so much for informing me Cheney has nothing to do with Coos County! I DID NOT KNOW THAT !!!!UR BRILLIANT !!!!
  6. Coquillian
    Report Abuse
    Coquillian - June 02, 2011 4:41 pm
    Kay, some of your posts amaze me. This one is no exception. I am with NB rez, and if you do the crime don't expect the rest of us to pay your tab. Simple as that. What are you actually talking about? Dick Cheney? He doesn't have anything to do with the Coos County jail, and the inmates therein.
  7. MindTwisted
    Report Abuse
    MindTwisted - June 02, 2011 4:22 pm
    How about getting them a cab? We spend tens of thousands of dollars per inmate each year, but can't handle a $10 fare on the day they're released?
  8. Kay
    Report Abuse
    Kay - June 02, 2011 12:58 pm
    NB Rez, does that mean I can shoot my good friend in the face with a shotgun, and lock the doors so the cops can't come in, then 24 hours later, let the cops in? Then take my retirement from the taxpayers and get an electric heart?

    That law?

    Or how about lying a nation into war causing the deaths and relocation of millions of people, then retire with a taxpayer funded retirement and live like a king?

    That law?
  9. Coquillian
    Report Abuse
    Coquillian - June 02, 2011 11:38 am
    Lets move everything to Coos Bay to make it more helpful to North county agencies. South county as usual gets bashed by the World and North County thinks they should have everything their way.
  10. NB_Rez
    Report Abuse
    NB_Rez - June 02, 2011 11:35 am
    Oh these poor inmates! What is this world coming to?? I have a solution...how about stop breaking the law and you won't get arrested and find yourself in Coquille without a ride??
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Content Match

Today's Events

More Events

Get TXT news alerts

Text “START” to 541-897-6428.

Standard messaging and data rates may apply.

Featured Promotions

Follow Us!

Latest Associated Press Videos