Fiscal Cliff; Prisons releasing prisoners due to funding shortages

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A scenario that police in western Oregon feared came true in the thick of holiday season after two dozen inmates were freed from a county jail that could no longer afford to hold them.

Less than an hour after one low-level offender walked out, authorities say, he was demanding that a bank teller hand over money.

In a time of budget cuts, cases where inmates get out of jail with little punishment only to commit more serious crimes shortly after their release have become all too common, authorities say.

Many in law enforcement predicted this would happen, and it could get worse if the nation goes over the so-called fiscal cliff.

The recession and a steady reduction in federal subsidies to timber counties have led Oregon sheriffs and district attorneys to juggle deep cuts. There are fewer jail beds, sheriff’s patrols, prosecutors, parole officers and specialized investigators.

Prosecutors have to toss out more than a quarter of the cases that cross their desks, just because there aren’t enough people to handle them.

AP

Top