Jackson County Sheriff's Office sees success in failure to appear program

(JCSO)

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office is continuing efforts to ease strain on the county's legal system by cracking down on chronic failure to appear (FTA) offenders.

In February of 2018, the JCSO started placing extra emphasis on catching and detaining the offenders in these cases. Their hope was to stop the cycle of criminals being arrested and, not soon after, released from the county's historically over-crowded jail.

"This idea that's been coined-- the revolving door of the jail-- has resulted in people who realize that they don't have to go to court," said JCSO Lt. Josh Aldrich in an interview with News 10 back in April. "The reality is our jail is so full that if they get arrested and come back on that warrant again, they're probably going to be released."

Several beds in the Jackson County Jail were set aside to keep FTA offenders in custody until their cases were resolved. Each week, JCSO posted the top five offenders on their Facebook, hoping that the public would recognize and report the their whereabouts.

"This week, we aren't posting our list of suspects who repeatedly fail to appear in court," the office said on their Facebook page Friday. "Why? Because all of the jail beds we've set aside for Chronic FTA Offenders are currently full!"

Since the program began, JCSO reported that 86 people known to continuously skip court were taken into custody-- the majority of which were held in jail until their cases were resolved. Only 13 of those cases were awaiting adjudication as of Friday.

In total, those 86 failure to appear offenders skipped court a total of nearly 2,500 times in more than 400 cases, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Aside from reducing the number of cases on the county's court dockets, local police said resolving FTA cases also has an undeniable impact on crime.

"Usually if they [FTA offenders] are going to get caught for a crime and they have a warrant for their arrest for a failure to appear, they will typically have the mentality of continuing to engage in criminal activity because they're already wanted for something," said Lt. Mike Budreau with the Medford Police Department.

Budreau added that dealing with repeat FTA offenders is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, but also an increased safety risk for officers.

"We have the records division that has to input all the warrants, and those take some time," he said. "And on the police side, they know the police are looking for them. They may try to run away, they may try to resist, so there's potential for some violence if we have to arrest the same people over and over again."

Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler was sworn into office Friday, bringing with him a commitment to build a new jail. The proposed jail would have a higher capacity, keeping more repeat offenders in custody instead of being released before their cases are resolved.

The county is proposing a 60-cent increase per $1,000 of assessed property value in taxes to pay for the jail, estimated to cost at least $100 million, the Mail Tribune reported.

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