By Elon Glucklich

The Bulletin

Deschutes County will use more than $640,000 in state funds to expand outreach to jail inmates near release and criminals in the pre-sentencing phase, hoping to cut down on repeat offenders.

The county also plans to increase staffing for Deschutes County Family Drug Court, which has seen a rising caseload, but no funding increases in recent years.

The funds come amid a statewide effort to reduce the overall prison population. Last year, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 3194, reducing mandatory minimum sentences for some marijuana-related offenses, driving with a suspended license and other nonviolent crimes.

It also set aside $15 million in Justice Reinvestment Program funds for counties to launch local initiatives.

Regional public safety officials narrowed down their proposed use of justice funds after discussing several options last month. Officials met with Deschutes County commissioners Wednesday to turn in their final proposals.

About $460,000 would be used for two new staff positions in the county’s parole and probation division over two years, as well as electronic monitoring devices and funds for transitional housing, drug, alcohol and sex offender treatment, according to Deschutes Community Justice Department figures.

The new personnel would work with a “specialized caseload” of county offenders deemed not to be a public safety risk upon their release, Community Justice Director Ken Hales said Wednesday.

Justice Reinvestment funds would also pay the salary of a certified recovery mentor position in the Family Drug Court program, which has utilized a part-time mentor since the court was set up in 2006.

Demand for drug court services has increased steadily in recent years, Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Alta Brady told commissioners. The program can’t reach its full potential unless drug court staff are able to work with participants on a regular basis, helping them develop skills to find employment and housing, she added

“These people need assistance with transportation, they definitely need clean and sober housing,” Brady said. “Funding would definitely help us continue with that.”

The drug court would take $120,000 of the county’s Justice Reinvestment funds over two years.

The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office will receive about $64,000 over two years to support assistance programs for victims of crimes.

Commissioners approved the requests following the meeting. The state is expected to send the funds in the coming weeks, Deschutes County Administrator Tom Anderson said. Half the funds would be used in the current biennium, and the other half in the next biennium, which starts July 1.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,