Budget crunch frees inmates from Lane County jail

Budget crunch frees inmates from Lane County jail

EUGENE, Ore. - Twelve women and 17 men walked out of jail Tuesday morning without serving their sentences or posting bail, a Get Out of Jail Free card courtesy of the Lane County Sheriff's Office budget.

"All of these inmates are people that we would not be releasing if we had enough funding to continue these beds," said Capt. Greg Fox with the sheriff's office. "So we're being forced to release these people. And these are people who've committed dangerous and violent crimes."

The inmates included people convicted of robbery and felony assault drunk driving.

One person sentenced to 4 months in jail for robbery served 17 days.

Two others were jailed awaiting trial on strangulation charges.

Public officials knew this day was coming. County Commissioners approved the budget Monday, pulling the trigger on a plan to close 96 jail beds.

Sheriff Tom Turner called Tuesday a very sad day for Lane County. The county jail now only has 152 beds for inmates sentenced to jail and people accused of crimes who have not posted bail and are awaiting trial.

Turner has two more sad days ahead of him this week: after the releases Tuesday, the jail is set to close 32 jail beds at 11 a.m. Wednesday and another 32 at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Some of the men and women released Tuesday were fitted with electronic monitoring devices that allow the sheriff to monitor inmates outside the jail.

This is a developing story. Watch this Web site and it's TV affiliate for more on this story, including an interview with a man convicted of robbery and sentenced to 6 months in jail who served a little more than 2 months.