June 17, 2013
We all talk about the Criminal Justice System and want to financially support the Criminal Justice System, but I believe most people do not know what the Criminal Justice System is.
The Criminal Justice System begins with patrol. And in Josephine County we have three (3) patrol agencies (Sheriffs Patrol, State Police, City of Grants Pass). Also, included are the investigation units of each of the jurisdictions.
Another part of the Criminal Justice System is the District Attorneys office. This office prosecutes all crimes on behalf of the State of Oregon. The funding for the prosecution of crimes comes from Josephine County, except for a major portion of the District Attorney?s salary, which is funded by the State. The District Attorney also provides several other services such as victims assistance to support enforcement. There are other functions, however, the primary function is the prosecution of crimes.
The next part of the Criminal Justice System is the State Court, which is funded by the State of Oregon.
Another part of the Criminal Justice System is Corrections. This Department provides probation officers to monitor those folks who have been convicted of a crime and need supervision outside of the jail. This Department is fully funded by the State of Oregon.
The next part of the Criminal Justice System is the jail, which is managed by the Sheriff’s department and funded by Josephine County. The County pays all the expenses for incarceration of inmates whether they are arrested in the city or the county. As long as they are sentenced to the County jail and not the state prison, all costs are covered by the county to include the building costs for heat, light, electricity, food, and personnel to guard the inmates.
The Juvenile Justice is another part of the Criminal Justice System, which consists of a Juvenile Court, a detention facility probation and shelter care. A majority of the funding for this part of the Criminal Justice comes from Josephine County.
Additional agencies that are impacted by the decisions of the members of the Criminal Justice System are Mental Health and the County Health Department. The Mental Health?s funding is from the State of Oregon, and a majority of the funds for the Public Health come from grants from the Federal Government and State Government.
The Public Defender attorneys are also a part of the Criminal Justice System, however, all of their funding comes from the State of Oregon. The Public Defenders provide attorney services for those folks that have been charged with a crime and do not have the financial means to hire an attorney to represent them in court.
The State of Oregon several years ago passed legislation creating an advisory committee to the Boards of County Commissioners. It is called the Local Public Safety Coordinating Commission, (LPSCC). The purpose of this Commission is to provide recommendations to the County Commissioners concerning the funding of the various agencies under the jurisdiction of the County Commissioners. The most important fl.rnction is to provide a forum for each of the agencies to discuss their policies and procedures and learn how their decisions will affect each of the agencies. In the year of 2012/13, I did not see this group providing any leadership or providing the necessary input needed during this time of financial stress. It is very important for the County Commissioners to take charge of LPSCC and schedule more meetings that should help them in the future on developing a business plan for the system that could be presented to the public.
One of the topics that should be discussed by LPSCC is how the District Attorney?s office should be funded. The County currently funds 100% of this office for prosecution of all crimes whether the arresting agency is the City of Grants Pass, Oregon State Police or Josephine County Sheriff. It is my belief this office should be funded 100% by the State of Oregon. My reason for this is when the District Attorney begins his case in the Court; he announces that “on behalf of the State of Oregon.” Also, in the Josephine County Budget book it is stated under Purpose of Program “The District Attorney shall attend all courts and conduct on behalf of the State, all prosecutions for offenses therein”. Although the District Attorney receives a supplemental salary from Josephine County in addition to his $88,000 he receives from the State, he does not provide services to Josephine County. The original reason the supplemental salary was that in the past the District Attorney acted as the Legal Counsel for the County.
The solution would be for the County Commissioners along with a recommendation from LPSCC to request the Legislature to provide funding in the amount of one million dollars for the District Attorney to provide prosecution. Our local legislators have been attempting to get the funding but have not been successful as of the date of this writing. I believe there are adequate funds in the State budget. It is a matter for the Legislature to prioritize how the funds are allocated. This would mean putting Public Safety as a high priority.
A letter writer in the local newspaper suggested that those folks who opposed the levy should come up with some possible solutions. I would agree with this suggestion. There have been some suggestions made to the Commissioners. One of them was recommending the Commissioners increase the harvest level on their timber sales on County forestland. A past Board of Commissioners recommended the harvest level be increased from three (3) million board feet to six (6) million board feet. The additional revenue to be used for the jail operation or rural patrols in fiscal year 2013/14. This would be a temporary measure to give the Commissioners some breathing room to come up with future funding. This would have been an excellent opportunity as the price of timber had gone up significantly in the past. To date this suggestion has not been accepted by the County Commissioners. There has been a slight increase by about 900 thousand board feet. I have a lot of respect for the County Forester. However, in a recent presentation to the County Budget Committee, he made a statement that his primary goal was to protect the trees for the future. This is a great goal and has been followed in the past. But the County has a financial crisis and there is a need for revenue and this increase would not materially affect the timber inventory on the 30,000 acres of forestland for the future.
Another suggestion was that Josephine County needed to have an inventory done of the trees on Josephine County forestland. This recommendation was made back in December of 2012. To date there has not been any action on putting our a request for proposals to do the inventory.
A final suggestion that should be discussed by LPSCC is that of funding of patrols. The State Police are in the process of hiring new officers. One of the other options would be to contract with Josephine County for patrol. This is a decision that could be made by the Legislature. This would be an immediate fix as Josephine County could hire back deputies that are already certified and would not have to go through a year of training and certification before they begin actual patrolling. It should be noted that the County Deputies would be patrolling county roads as well as State highways. The Oregon Stake Police patrol only State highways and will only respond to other incidents if it is life threatening. The State Police is an excellent agency, however, as I understand the issue, the problem is now and the need is now.
The above suggestion would have a more immediate impact and help more than the current proposal being heard by the Legislature. The Legislature is currently looking at passing HB 3453, which would give the Governor the ability to create a local income tax in Josephine County to pay for public safety in Josephine County. This would require approval by the Board of the County Commissioners. The bill is a solution by the Governor to relieve the State of some of their responsibility, especially in the funding of the District Attorneys’s office. This bill will have a negative impact on the County’s economic health more so than the current situation.
Subscribe to NWV Southern Oregon Edition Alerts!
There are some tough decisions that have to be made for the future of Josephine County. This is not the time for them and us, it is a time for we.
I am in hopes that the information I have provided above will be of some value in helping the citizens of Josephine County to understand and come forward with solutions. Decisions will then meet the financial needs of the County but not create a financial burden of those that do not have the financial means to pay for services.
© 2013 Harold Haugen - All Rights Reserved
Harold Haugen is a former Josephine County (Oregon) Commissioner serving from 1/1981 to 1/1989 and 1/1990 to 1/2005. He was also appointed to fill out the term of vacated County Commissioner from 1/2012 to 1/2013. During his term of office he was elected to lead the Association of Oregon Counties in 2000.
Appointed by Governor John Kitzhaber to serve on the Criminal Justice Commission and re-appoionted by Governor Kulongoski. Prior to being elected to the County Commissioner position he worked as a private investigator for 15 years. Harold is a strong believer in private property rights.