Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today I issued the audit report Multnomah County Jail Conditions: Circumstances were Worse for Adults in Custody who are Black and/or Have Mental Health Conditions. This was the Auditor’s Office’s first in-depth audit report on county jail conditions. You can read an overview of the audit report later in this newsletter.
Through the audit, my team and I are providing more transparency to the public about the jail operations we all pay for. I hope the information we’re sharing can help ground conversations about our legal system in facts that the public can trust.
From this audit to our audits on the county’s COVID-19 response to our follow-ups to ensure that management enacts recommendations to improve government, my office is always working to help ensure your county government is accountable to you and transparent with you. I ask you to please support my office’s proposed amendments to the County Charter to help us do even more to ensure county government is effective and accountable. Send an email of support today to Kali.Odell@multco.us, the MCCRC’s program coordinator, with the subject line "Public Comment." Ask your friends and family to support the amendments too!
Jail conditions audit overview
My office conducted an audit of county jail conditions to provide information to community members about the conditions people experienced when they were incarcerated in county jails and about who is in our county jails.
My office analyzed jail data spanning the three-year period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2021. In addition to data analysis, my office conducted interviews, research, and created a survey that we provided to all adults in custody in June 2021. The response rate was 74%, with 567 adults in custody completing the survey.
I'm pleased to provide the following report highlights, and encourage you to read the full report.
What We Found
- Sheriff’s Office decisions on where individuals were housed were not as standardized and consistent as they could have been.
- Discipline procedures appeared consistent with standards, but misconduct citations were handed out disproportionately to Black adults in custody, and some deputies issued much higher rates of misconduct citations.
- Use of force procedures were consistent with standards, but deputies used force against Black adults in custody at a higher rate.
- Jail conditions were worse for people with mental health conditions.
Why We Did This Audit
We conducted this audit to provide an update on jail conditions. County leadership committed to make improvements based on a 2017 Disability Rights Oregon report which found improper conditions for individuals with mental health conditions. We also want to provide information to community members about who is in our jails and the conditions they experience when incarcerated. Our focus was on describing conditions with a data-rich approach that could inform the ongoing community discussions about the legal system.
What We Recommend
To implement some of our recommendations, the Sheriff’s Office and Board of County Commissioners, with its budget authority, may need to provide financial resources and support keeping jails below maximum capacity.
We recommend that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, no later than September 30, 2022:
- Delay full classification interviews for adults in custody moving into housing until 72 hours after booking.
- Expand supervisory review of classification decisions, with a focus on possible over-classification.
- Eliminate the use of isolation as a disciplinary sanction for individuals with mental health conditions.
We recommend that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, no later than March 30, 2023:
- Develop and implement a training program designed to reinforce the goal of informal solutions to discipline issues and to reduce the need for misconduct citations.
- Monitor deputies’ use of misconduct citations.
- Implement a use of force data collection system that will facilitate analysis of use of force incidents to identify patterns and training priorities.
- Contract with professionals in training on cultural competency as well as identifying and managing race-related implicit bias.
- Eliminate the use of disciplinary sanctions that involve isolation.
- Expand training for deputies on how to work with adults in custody with mental health conditions.
- Expand the number of housing areas specifically for individuals with mental health conditions.
- Revise procedures for planned use of force activities involving individuals with mental health conditions to require participation of mental health staff.
- Review the results of our survey of adults in custody to examine the areas of concern that adults in custody identified and implement changes to address those areas of concern.
We recommend that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Board of County Commissioners, no later than April 30, 2023:
Explore an independent review function for jail operations, such as discipline and use of force incidents.
Helpful COVID-19 Links
COVID-19 rent relief information for Multnomah County residents: Information about eviction protections.
Complete list of current Multnomah County vaccination clinics, along with information about who is eligible (everyone!) , accessing support for language access and for seniors, and information about the vaccination process.
If you would like information on how to stay healthy, slow the spread of coronavirus, or how to report any issues, please visit https://multco.us/novel-coronavirus-covid-19.
Unfortunately, some communities have experienced acts of racism and xenophobia because of the myths surrounding COVID-19; this county site has information about how to report discrimination and find support.
This page contains resources to support our communities as we experience the COVID-19 pandemic and get through this together.
Learn more about disability rights and COVID-19.