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May 25, 2020
You are here : Jail  >  New Jail Project
New Jail Project

Jackson County Sheriff's Office staff are exploring ways to help alleviate problems in the local criminal justice system caused by an undersized and outdated jail.  The goal of this website is to help educate citizens about the problem so we can work toward an effective solution.

The current jail was built in 1981, when Jackson County's population was 134,546, and was designed to hold 176 inmates.  In 1985, inmates sued Jackson County for overcrowded conditions; the settlement led to clear restrictions on the ability to house additional inmates within the current facility. 

In 2017, the jail handled approximately 14,000 lodgings.  Due to capacity restrictions, about half were released before they could appear in court or pay bail. Upon release, many offenders go on to commit additional crimes, to be lodged in jail, and to be released again.  This "revolving door" affects liveability in the community, and creates a strain on local resources.  

In 2018, Jackson County's population reached 215,000 and continues to grow.  Modifications to the jail now allow a total capacity of 300 inmates (315 overnight) - a capacity that is still inadequate to address the needs of the community.  

In 2019, Jackson County completed the purchase of a parcel of land in North Medford upon which to build a proposed new jail.  Efforts are currently under way to introduce a plan to voters to approve a service district to support future jail operations. 

Sheriff Sickler is available to present information about the jail project to local groups and organizations.  Please call (541) 770-8923 to make a request. 

This page is a work in progress and additional information will be added over time.  We hope you will find it useful. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does it cost so much?  $166 million sounds like a lot of money.

It is a lot of money, but it is realistic.  Corrections facilities cost much more to build than structures like homes or businesses.  State law requires specific building standards for jails, which include features like reinforced concrete walls and enhanced security features.  The infrastructure to support a facility that includes living quarters for hundreds of people is incredibly extensive; the sewer system alone is immense!

The estimate was informed by research and recent examples.  Skagit County (Wash.) opened a new jail in 2017.  The cost was around $62 million for a 400-bed facility.  Recently, Clatsop County (Ore.) voters passed a bond to help fund a remodel of an existing building; the estimated cost is about $28 million for a 148-bed jail. We have to keep in mind that construction costs go up as time goes on; the longer we wait to get started, the more expensive the project will be.

Most importantly, the sheriff's proposal includes funding for operating costs.  It would be a huge mistake to spend money to build a new jail without planning to fund its operation.  In 1996, Multnomah County passed a bond measure to open a new jail.  The 525 bed jail was completed in 2004 for about $58 million.  Unfortunately, the jail was never used to house inmates because of a lack of funding for operation.  The sale of the building was approved for $5 million dollars in 2018 - a huge loss.