February 29, 2024

Whole Community News

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Sheriff: State funding for parole and probation is broken

7 min read
Back in the '90s, the state offered to provide funding for parole and probation services if counties would take over. Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold: "Here's the problem. They're not actually funding it. They're defunding it to the tune of a difference in Lane County of $9.5 million in the 23-25 biennium."

From the 2023 Eugene Chamber of Commerce Community Solutions Summit:

Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold: I want to start off by saying thanks. Your group helped this community pass the jail levy back in last May (16, 2023); 79 percent voted yes. So this organization, the business group, helped with that and you continue to help engage at a local level. So thank you for that. Thank you for your interest…

I love having these local conversations. We’ve got all these folks in this room, local community leaders invested in their local community. I love having conversations with my local partners and we do that frequently. We have a local public safety coordinating council, etc.

[00:00:37] We do a lot of good work locally and we stretch your tax dollars pretty well locally because we’ve got a legacy of needing to do that. And what I want to ask you all to do is to recognize also that there has to be engagement at a statewide level for the local folks to be successful.

[00:00:53] Like I said, we’ve been innovative. We’ve tried new things. Certainly in the Lane County Jail, we’ve been innovative. But folks, I would love for you to invest some of your energy and make connections and relationships with your state legislators.

[00:01:05] I’m just going to give you two quick examples that I think we need to make sure that your state legislators even know that this is happening.

[00:01:12] As an example: In the ’90s, the state struck a deal with counties and said, ‘Hey, counties, why don’t you take over parole and probation? And why don’t you take over holding incarcerated felons for a year or more? But we’ll pay for it.’ And the state said, in fact, as part of this, ‘You do a cost study every two years and give us that information and we’ll pay for these services, but we think you can do it better, counties.’

[00:01:35] Well, here’s the problem. They’re not actually funding it. They’re defunding it to the tune of a difference in Lane County of $9.5 million in the 23-25 biennium. That’s a difference of 15 parole and probation officers that are among these other service providers that are up here.

These parole and probation officers are walking alongside folks, trying to help them get back integrated, trying to help them get back into being successful in life, trying to get them to be contributors to society.

[00:02:05] If we go from 40, which is about what we have in our county now, down to 25, is that beneficial to us? Do we feel like we’re in a place where, ‘We could probably do without 15 parole and probation officers.’ I don’t feel that way.

[00:02:18] The state system for funding this is broken. It hasn’t been touched since 1994. They haven’t acknowledged the true cost of providing the services in 20 years, and that really has to be addressed at a state level for us to be successful locally.

[00:02:35] And then just another quick example, it’s much smaller, but the citizens of the state passed a measure called Measure 73, and this was more like in 2010-ish. And there was a number of things involved in that measure. One of them was that anybody that had their third DUII conviction was supposed to spend 90 days in the county jail.

[00:02:53] As part of the measure that the whole state voted yes on was that the state would fund those 90 days in the county jail. It’s in the measure that everybody voted for. So we send a quarterly invoice to the state based on how many folks were in our jail serving their 90-day sentence under this measure.

[00:03:12] And my final quarter of last year, we sent the invoice to the state and the state said, ‘There’s no money left for that.’ So it was a $100,000 bill that the state just said, ‘Oh, there’s no more funding left in that program.’ There’s a state measure that says the state’s supposed to pay for it, but then they just say, ‘There’s no money, we’re not paying for it.’

[00:03:30] I’m sorry if I’m sounding a little bold and a little upset. I don’t mean to, but honestly, we have to get some statewide engagement…

[00:03:38] Just a little reflection on some personal experience. So, I grew up in our office. I worked in our jail when I was a 21-year-old kid. I started as an Explorer when I was 16. I didn’t get invited into the drug culture much when I was in high school, because everybody knew that I was riding around with deputies every moment I had off.

[00:03:53] So I remember working in the jail and it might surprise you to know that our folks that work in the jail, we get to know some of the folks that come. I mean, much like the navigators at the Mission get to know people, we get to know people. And I can’t tell you how many times after someone had been in our custody for a period of time where they had been able to, clean up a little bit and think straight and they would say, ‘Harrold, you’re never going to see me in here again. I’m done. I’m not going back to using methamphetamine. I’m done with living this life.’

[00:04:20] And I 100 percent know that they meant it. I mean, they didn’t want to be stealing from their grandma so that they could buy their next drugs. And so I know when they exited our facility, they 100%, they were like, they were ready to turn over a new leaf.

[00:04:36] Unfortunately, oftentimes when they left our facility, they went back to wherever they store their clothes, and it’s probably surrounded by bad influences, and so oftentimes they struggled.

[00:04:46] But at least they had that moment of clarity to say, ‘I don’t want this anymore.’ If we’re contacting them on the street and writing them a citation that’s, again, it’s lower than a safety belt citation, is that giving them that moment to consider a different path? I don’t think it is.

[00:05:02] And I just can tell you that personally I’ve talked to so many who have come up to me and thanked me. There’s an individual that’s a service provider in our community now, he’s part of a MAT program. And he came up and he said, ‘I’ve been in your jail 42 times earlier in my life. If it wasn’t for the way you and your staff treated me every time, I wouldn’t have finally gotten my life right.’

[00:05:23] And I’ve heard that a number of times. And the other thing is that in our organization, you, when you transfer from the jail to patrol, you go into court transport, where you’re taking folks from jail into a courtroom for their court processes and taking them back. Lane County has had a drug treatment court for forever. A really great one. We were a pioneer in that.

[00:05:41] And I tell you, folks, the graduations for drug treatment court are open affairs. And if you haven’t ever been to one, you should go. They are so fantastic to watch families reunited and you just know these are moms, these are folks that thought they lost their kid and the celebration after a two-year process—and drug treatment court is not easy. I mean, folks often times say, ‘I don’t want treatment court, just send me to prison,’ because they have to walk this path and they struggle.

[00:06:15] But the team in drug treatment court is there for when they do trip up to bring them back onto the right path. And so two years down the road, they get to reunite with the family. Families bring posters, and it’s like, it’s just a really cool event. Those are the wins that we get to celebrate, and I don’t think that we’re getting enough of those now that (Measure) 110 passed.

[00:06:34] And while pre-110, were we winning the war on drugs? No. Were we rescuing some people from that loss? Yes. So, it definitely needs to be tweaked. We need a mechanism to get people into treatment. They will thank us for it later—because they have.

[00:06:52] And again, my request to you is call your state legislator and make sure that they really understand how the state’s interaction with your local government and the ways that we need the state to engage.

[00:07:06] So 100% has to do with, and this is just one guy’s opinion, the state’s taken in more tax revenue than I’ve ever seen them take in before: They can be funding public safety as they’re supposed to.

[00:07:15] And then we need big time help from the state when it comes to our mental health crisis also. There’s a group meeting at a statewide level about the ability to force treatment for folks to get them into a place, again, where they can think more clearly and make choices on future treatment. And that’s going to require some statutory changing in our state.

[00:07:34] When we looked at the Stabilization Center, we went and looked at this fantastic model down in Tucson, Arizona. All the great things it’s doing, we can’t do them here, because our statutes are different. And so, there needs to be some changes. And I think, statewide, everybody recognizes that. It’s just zeroing in on what exactly that looks like.

[00:07:50] So if you could encourage your legislators in those two areas, we really need the state’s help for us to be successful locally.

[00:07:57] John Q: Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold encourages local community members to reach out to their representatives. Tell them to pay their bills from Measure 73, fund parole and probation services, and help people get the addiction treatment they need.

—From the Eugene Chamber of Commerce 2023 Community Solutions Summit.

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