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Jackson County Sheriff Continues To Push For Larger Jail

Image of sheriff standing in a classroom.
Erik Neumann / JPR
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Jacksoun County Sheriff Nate Sickler following a presentation about the need for a larger jail.

The sheriff of Jackson County is continuing to campaign for a new jail to address what he says is serious overcrowding at the facility in Medford.

According to Sheriff Nate Sickler, the current 346-bed jail isn’t large enough to house the number of people his officers arrest on a regular basis. As a result, low-level offenders are routinely released, which he says puts communities at risk.

The Sheriff is pushing for a new jail despite a similar proposal that failed to get sufficient support last year from cities in Jackson County, including Ashland and Talent.

Sickler is instead pushing for an expanded 800-bed facility at an anticipated building cost of $171 million, $5 million more than past estimates. According to Sickler, Jackson County previously committed $66.5 million to start the project.

Sickler says the known space issues have created a lack of accountability for offenders who don’t expect to be held. A larger jail with more capacity would incentivize potential offenders to stay out of trouble and to participate in county programs to treat substance abuse.

“You can make all the programs you want, but if you don’t have some way of holding people accountable those programs are going to fail,” Sickler said.  

Renewing the plan for a new jail would require cities within Jackson County to enter into a service district to generate tax money to fund the new facility.  

Final approval would be required from county voters and would be paid for through an increased property tax.

Erik Neumann is the interim news director at Jefferson Public Radio. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.