Murmurs: Jail Officials Expand Training on Use of Body Scanners

In other news: Small Donor Elections program fears budget shortfall.

PENGUINARIUM: Endangered humboldt penguins on exhibit at the Oregon Zoo. (C) Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham

JAIL OFFICIALS EXPAND TRAINING ON USE OF BODY SCANNERS: Top officials at the Multnomah County Jail told county commissioners at a Sept. 12 briefing that they’re expanding staff training in the use of body scanners at the county’s jails. The X-ray scanners were installed in the fall of 2019, but the sheriff’s office just became aware of a certification program that allows staff to train co-workers how to use them. In the wake of an unprecedented six inmate deaths earlier this year, Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell said the scanners had proven ineffective at detecting fentanyl being smuggled into the jails, and some of the deaths may have been drug related (“Cell Death,” WW, Aug. 16). The problem, however, may not have been the machines but a lack of training. The jail brought in the company that services the scanners to provide staff training a few weeks ago at the county’s Inverness Jail in East Portland. Chief Deputy Stephen Reardon told county officials it’s already proving effective. Deputies are finding more contraband. “We are seeing a difference,” he said.

SMALL DONOR ELECTIONS PROGRAM FEARS BUDGET SHORTFALL: As candidates in next year’s 12 City Council races flood the zone, the city’s Small Donor Elections program—which matches small contributions to candidates with taxpayer dollars by up to 9 to 1—is worried it won’t have the budget next year to meet its obligations. (Between 50 and 100 candidates are expected to run for City Council in 2024; see page 13.) The program is asking for an additional $4.2 million from the city to prepare for the influx of candidates. But Mayor Ted Wheeler hasn’t included the request in the upcoming fall surplus budget, nor has he indicated he will include it in next year’s budget. “If there is an extreme funding shortfall, match caps will have to be lowered accordingly, disrupting the program’s purpose of reducing the actual and perceived influence of large financial contributions,” Susan Mottet, the program’s director, tells WW. Mayoral spokesman Cody Bowman says the mayor’s office is monitoring the program’s budget needs and will “assess additional funding” next year. “That decision will be largely influenced by financial forecasts we will receive later this year,” Bowman says.

ZOO PLANS RENOVATIONS TO ADDRESS ACCREDITOR’S CONCERNS: An inspection report by the Oregon Zoo’s national accreditor outlines concerns raised during a site visit last summer. In the report, obtained by WW, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums found no major problems but listed several “lesser concerns,” including “limited holding capabilities” at the giraffe barn, an outdated Family Farm barn, a penguin exhibit that is not “aesthetically pleasing,” and a damaged boardwalk and railing at the black bear and mountain goat enclosures. The zoo is working on fixes, it says. “We’ve already addressed two of them: boardwalk resurfacing and repairs, and assessment of educational programs. But the others—penguin, giraffe and family farm areas—are more complex projects, and we’re working on those now through the campus planning process,” says zoo spokesman Hova Najarian. The zoo has spent $150 million in the past decade modernizing nearly half of its campus with funding approved by voters in 2008. Now, it proposes a slew of projects to modernize the other half, including the penguinarium and giraffe exhibit that were the subject of AZA concerns, according to a staff report presented to Metro councilors earlier this month.

FEDERAL JUDGE SAYS PATIENTS MUST BE RELEASED FROM STATE HOSPITAL: A federal judge in Portland invoked the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 11 to force the release of mentally ill inmates from the state’s locked psychiatric hospital. U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ordered Oregon State Hospital last year to limit the time it held criminally charged patients who were sent there for treatment because they were too mentally ill to stand trial. The result—patients being discharged early—frustrated county judges who believed some needed longer periods of treatment. In some cases, they ordered patients to be held at the hospital past Mosman’s early release deadlines. That set up a constitutional showdown between federal and state judges. On Monday, Mosman pulled rank. “Orders issued by state court judges in Marion County prohibiting the release of detainees held at Oregon State Hospital for restoration purposes are void under the Supremacy Clause,” he ordered. The supremacy clause, in Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, gives federal law precedence over state law when the two conflict. At issue are seven patients from Marion County held in August at Oregon State Hospital beyond Mosman’s limits, thanks to a lack of community facilities able to take them. The day after Mosman’s order, Marion County sued the Oregon Health Authority in circuit court, demanding the hospital hold more patients.

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