"Meanwhile, inmates were dropping in and out of each other's cells for casual sex."
That's just one of the allegations of jail mismanagement in Saturday's Oregonian editorial, sensationally entitled "The body count at the county jail." Here's the problem:
It isn't true.
According to my wife, who has worked at the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) --the main county jail-- for 10 years, there has been one case of an inmate "dropping in" for "casual sex" in the past decade. One case, not the multiple (and frequent) incidents implied by the editorial writer.
The editorial is just the latest example of journalistic irresponsibility in coverage of the Multnomah County's "corrections" system.
Consider Friday's stories in both the O and the Tribune questioning the quality of health care for county inmates raised by the deaths of Holly Jean Casey and Jody Gilbert Norman. Both stories included allegations of drug record tampering by RN Kimberly Joers. Here's the problem with that:
Joers had absolutely nothing to do with the investigation into the deaths of the two inmates. Her case is entirely extraneous. So why was it included in story about possible medical negligence in the deaths of the two inmates?
Equally disturbing is what the media doesn't report and the questions it doesn't ask, starting with this one: Why was Holly Jean Casey, a drug addict with serious medical problems, arrested in the first place? If the finger of blame must be pointed, it should be directed, at least in part, at City of Portland police officers who regularly arrest drunks, drug addicts, the homeless, and the mentally ill on "failure to appear" warrants for citations involving minor infractions. Why? Because they're easy targets.
Perhaps reporters should ask if the police are under pressure to pad their arrest numbers to meet an imposed "quota".
Easy targets like Casey may account for half of MCDC's inmate population. That clearly stresses Multnomah County Corrections Health which, like many county programs, has suffered deep cuts in staffing over the past few years. It's a wonder, then, that the "body count" at the jail isn't even higher.
What the county badly needs is more fully staffed treatment facilities for those with addictions and other psychological problems. Ironically, the Oregonian editorialized some time back for opening the new Wapato facility as a "jail". Now the O has modified that recommendation and is backing County Chair Ted Wheeler's call for opening Wapato as a half jail, half treatment facility.
That's a half step in the right direction.