Newly Released Documents Contain New Ways to Measure the Dysfunction at Multnomah County’s Jails

Among the myriad of issues: hiring delays, absenteeism, and a rise in mental illness.


Investigations into the underlying causes of 10 deaths over two years at Multnomah County’s jails are beginning to bear fruit.

Two deputies have been criminally charged for failing to adequately monitor two of the inmates who died. And a federal evaluator recently submitted a report outlining dozens of recommendations to improve conditions inside the jails.

Meanwhile, WW has obtained emails from staff inside the jails complaining about inadequate health care as early as October 2022, as well as copies of the investigations into the two deputies’ conduct.

The investigatory reports are almost entirely redacted and the emails largely back up what WW has already reported: The jails lost key personnel and were in the midst of a staffing crisis when many of the inmates died.

But the reports and the other documents do help round out our understanding of what went wrong inside Multnomah County jails and why. Here are a few things we learned.

Average length of time inmates spend in Multnomah County jails: 20 days

How much that has increased in recent years, according to the National Institute of Corrections: It’s doubled.

Budgeted capacity of Multnomah County jails: 1,130

Number of people in Multnomah County jails: 871

Number of unfilled corrections officer positions: 31

Number of unfilled corrections nurse positions: 17

Average time to hire additional county health staff, according to a December 2022 email from then-health department director Valdez Bravo: 146 days

Number of steps in the hiring process: 60

Number of corrections officer applicants last year: 550

Number of deputies hired: 59

Number of deputies on long-term leave, according to the National Institute of Corrections: 20

Direction in which absenteeism is trending: Up

How many fewer hours of training deputies will receive in 2024: 6.5

How inmates are inspected for contraband: X-rays and strip searches

Number of Corrections Health staff who walk in and out of the jail without being searched, according to the National Institute of Corrections inspector: “Countless”

Percentage of inmates with mental health issues, according to Corrections Health staff: 100%

Percentage of inmates flagged with mental illness in the jail’s housing system: 31%

Number of staff psychiatrists: 0

Length of the time it takes for inmates to receive mental health services upon release, according to jail counselors: 3 months

Date on which Myque Obiero, head of Multnomah County Corrections Health, told a subordinate, “The group is in a dire place”: Oct. 17, 2022

Number of people who have died in jail since then: 8

Clarification: This article has been updated with MCSO’s latest number of officer vacancies, which differs from statistics included in the NIC report. The author of the report could not be reached for comment.

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