The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office says it has released more than 160 people since July because of overcrowding in the two county jails it runs.
In 2016, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted to close several dorms in Inverness Jail—reducing the number of jail beds available to the county. The board put in place a process to release individuals if the newly-shrunk jails got too full.
The goal was to reduce the population of people held in jail and keep spending in check.
MCSO says that the jails have been near capacity since November. When the agency fills 90 percent of available jail beds, it sends a warning—which the agency calls a "yellow light"—to law enforcement agencies and the district attorney's office.
"We've been in almost constant yellow light warning certainly since November," says MCSO chief of staff Stephanie Prybyl. "We had a spike in November, and we had a spike in February and in March."
At 95 percent, MCSO starts releasing individuals who otherwise would be held in a cell.
The sheriff's office disclosed the numbers after a request by WW. Sheriff's officials have been discussing these numbers with county leaders for the past week, as the department gears up to request money to re-open a closed dorm in its proposal for the 2018-19 budget.