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Jail Cell

The Coos County jail’s bed count will double it's inmate count from 49 to 98 as the department made modifications in its budget to make wages more competitive in order to hire more jail staff.

COQUILLE — The Coos County Sheriff’s Office reported to County Commissioners Wednesday, at a work session, that the jail would likely have enough employees available to open up a second pod as soon as March.

The Sheriff’s Office has filled all of the necessary positions to bring the jail from 50 to 100 beds. However, there are new employees that need to be trained, and a couple of deputies who are currently out because of injuries. Operating two pods of the Coos County Jail requires a staff of 34 people.

“I think we’ll make it. We’ve got a lot of inexperienced people, but we’re trying to spread them out and keep a few senior people around. I’ve never seen this many new people. It’s insane how many new people we have on staff. I think we can make March,” CCSO Capt. Darius Mede said.

The jail has been operating with only 50 beds since 2015, when the lack of available staff began. The sheriff’s office was having trouble retaining deputies because wages set by the county we’re no longer competitive with other law enforcement agencies.

While the Sheriff’s Office has been trying to get back to 100 beds for the past three years, an issue with state funding for inmates on probation and parole has county commissioners asking for another jail pod to be opened as soon as possible.

Through Community Corrections, the state pays for jail beds for probation and paroled inmates that the Sheriff’s Office can’t always provide due to a lack of available space and staffing at the jail. This has resulted in two years of what the state considers overspending.

The state pays CCSO for 19 beds a day at a rate of $111 per bed, which is right around $63,000 dollars a month. This is a flat monthly rate the state pays the jail whether they use more than 19 beds or less than 19 beds each day.

Although the state pays for the inmates’ beds, the actual cost to house, feed, and provide medical care for an inmate in Coos County is $245 according to the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Craig Zanni feels that because all costs are not considered the state is not overspending.

“Here’s the real cost. In seven years, we’ve spent over $6,814,707 to provide services to the state that were not paid for by the state, they were paid for by the taxpayers of Coos County. We agreed in the past that the state pay a certain level, and sometimes we’re over and sometimes we’re under. There’s no overpayment by the state for housing state inmates, based on the actual cost to Coos County we have been subsidizing the housing of state inmates at an average rate of $970,000 a year,” Zanni said.

Commissioner Melissa Cribbins countered the Zanni's argument by pointing out that the county has a contract with the state in regards to jail beds that says they will pay $111 per bed per day.

“This is still the bed rate we agreed to. That’s the problem, we signed the document. We can totally argue that in the upcoming negotiations for 2020 to 2022,” Cribbins said.

A work session was held toward the end of October 2017, where commissioners had a very similar conversation. In that meeting commissioners voted on a motion that starting Dec. 1, 2017, the jail would begin charging the state only for the beds that actually get used by state inmates. The motion carried by a two-to-one vote.

Due to some miscommunication, the pay as you go plan was not enacted in December. Many of the parties involved in changing the pay structure thought that there would be a meeting that really detailed how the change was going to work. The commissioner’s office is now reviewing work session recordings to find out exactly what the vote entailed.

Another meeting will be held soon to figure out how to adjust the state's payments to a pay as you go system. If implemented, the new payment process would likely only last as long as the jail is down to one pod. Once another pod is opened payment should return to normal.