Budget frees inmates from jail: 'They let me out four months early'

EUGENE, Ore. - Johnny Secreto scored Tuesday morning: serving a 6-month sentence for robbery, Lane County let him go after serving less than 2 months.

"I'd like to say they did me right. They let me out four months early," Secreto said before adding, "Their food sucks."

Secreto and 28 others got out of jail free Tuesday, part of the first of three waves of 32 jail inmates being released at 11 a.m. sharp over three days. Three of the inmates were transferred to other counties.

Unlike capacity based releases - the kind of routine but unwelcome release of low-level offenders by the sheriff's office to make room for other inmates that saw a meth dealer get out after 2 days of a 300 day sentence last week - this week's releases represent a further reduction of the jail's ability to hold people convicted or accused of crimes.

The sheriff's office had to cut 96 jail beds to answer a budget crunch, reducing the jail to 152 jail beds.

"This jail will be smaller today than it was when I started in 1987," Capt. Greg Fox with the Lane County Sheriff's Office said before the releases. "We are being forced to release these people, and these are people who have committed dangerous and violent crimes."

Tuesday's release included people convicted of robbery and felony assault drunk driving, plus two others facing strangulation charges.

One person sentenced to four months in jail for robbery had served just 17 days.

Fox said inmates are given a risk assessment score based on 75 questions, including current charges, past charges and time served.

The data goes into a computer; the computer spits out a number. The idea is that the higher the number, the more likely an inmate is to re-offend.

KVAL News asked Fox what he would say to people in the community concerned about the inmate releases.

"I think if I said something that would calm them down," he responded, "I wouldn't be telling the truth."