ST. HELEN’S, Ore. -- KATU’s On Your Side Investigators wanted to know why a woman convicted of assaulting a one-year-old boy was released after spending just 16 hours in the Columbia County Jail.
The Columbia County Sheriff's Office says the early release of inmates comes down to a lack of money.
One-year-old Paxton Pitts' mother, Crystal Nagel, says her son wound up with a swollen lip and marks from a wooden spoon on his back after Natasha Kral watched him.
“He had seven welts going from his shoulders, going to the bottom of his butt," said Nagel. “He couldn't close his mouth."
Kral is the fiancée of Paxton's father. She was convicted of felony assault after pleading guilty in the case, but she told KATU she never hit the child.
Kral was sentenced to 20 days on the sheriff's work crew, three years of probation, and 10 days in jail, but she only served 16 hours of that jail time, which outraged Paxton's mother and grandmother, Patricia Fultz.
“She should just get more than what she got,” said Fultz. “She shouldn't have been booked and released. She should have stayed."
The sheriff's office says the jail has more than 250 beds, but they can barely afford to hold around 50 inmates at a time. They say they decide who gets out early based on the severity of the offense, the inmate's criminal record and their behavior while they're locked up. A lieutenant says they release anywhere from two to 10 inmates a day before their sentences are up.
“I just don't feel like child abuse is being taken seriously at all," said Nagel.
In May, voters in Columbia County passed a property tax hike to increase funding for the jail, but the sheriff's office says that cash won't come through until the fall.