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Sheriff: Rise in jail violence due to mental health issues


GOLD BEACH – Violence in the Curry County jail is increasing, mostly because of the mental health problems they are having in the jail, Sheriff John Bishop told the County Budget Committee as it opened budget hearings on Monday

“One of my deputies was surrounded by three inmates. It took 45 second for the other deputy to respond,” Bishop said.


“Because of the mental health problems we are having, the violence is starting to happen,” the sheriff said.

Bishop said he would prefer to have at least three deputies on duty at the jail at any one time, but his budget won’t allow it.

“We’ve had a 72 percent increase in bookings since 2009,” he said.

And Bishop said his department is responsible for the safety of inmates.

“We currently have one inmate who requires $2,500-$3,000 a month for medication. We’re mandated. We have no choice,” he said.

He said there is another who is in stage four and five with liver cancer, who is scheduled to report in soon.

“We’re not even sure he will be alive when he is scheduled to report,” Bishop said.

He said another jail in Oregon has an inmate on dialysis that costs thousands to treat.

“We have dreaded this about every day that passes,” he said.

Of another inmate, Bishop calls it a mental health issue.

“Even if we put bracelets on, he probably would not stay at home.”

“Would mental health court help with this?” Commissioner George Rhodes asked.

“I don’t even believe he qualifies,” Bishop said.

“We’ve done a survey with all the counties. About 30 percent of the incarcerated population needs to be in a more of a mental health situation,” he said. “But it’s the federal and state requirements.”

He said another big issue with the jail is the food, that inflation is driving up costs.

“We’re required so many calories a day,” he said.

“We can hold seven females, in an emergency 10,” Bishop said. “We had 13 at one time.”

Bishop said the jail was releasing one every time another came in.

“Finally, we stopped receiving,” he said.

“Brookings brought one down overdosed on heroin, but still alive. Your DTs on heroin can be quite deadly,” Bishop said.

John Spicer, a Gold Beach attorney on the budget committee, said that there are inmates who need to be in a mental health hospital.

“The state is kicking them loose. These people are in the jail. You can’t do anything with them,” Spicer said.

“It’s got to the point I have concerns with attorneys in the room with some of these individuals,” Bishop said. “We can’t be in there. I have no choice because of federal and state requirements.”

Rhodes asked if there had been a study of how much it would help if some of the inmates were covered by Medicare.

“Some on a case by case are getting that,” Bishop said. “It’s somewhat of a political hot potato. Once they are sentenced, by direction of the state and federal government, we are responsible.”

Bishop said the jail has saved a lot of money by having former County Health Director Georgeanne Green working in the jail as a nurse. And he said Undersheriff Bob Rector has done a great job working with Curry General Hospital. 


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