Multnomah County Jail Conditions: Circumstances were Worse for Adults in Custody who are Black and/or Have Mental Health Conditions

Report Highlights 
Multnomah County Justice Center. Source: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

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:

  1. Delay full classification interviews for adults in custody moving into housing until 72 hours after booking.

  2. Expand supervisory review of classification decisions, with a focus on possible over-classification.

  3. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. Monitor deputies’ use of misconduct citations.

  3. Implement a use of force data collection system that will facilitate analysis of use of force incidents to identify patterns and training priorities.

  4. Contract with professionals in training on cultural competency as well as identifying and managing race-related implicit bias.  

  5. Eliminate the use of disciplinary sanctions that involve isolation.

  6. Expand training for deputies on how to work with adults in custody with mental health conditions.

  7. Expand the number of housing areas specifically for individuals with mental health conditions.

  8. Revise procedures for planned use of force activities involving individuals with mental health conditions to require participation of mental health staff.

  9. 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:

  1. Explore an independent review function for jail operations, such as discipline and use of force incidents.