Wapato jail facility will finally greet first inmates

Wapato jail facility will finally greet first inmates »Play Video
PORTLAND, Ore. - The Wapato jail facility, a symbol of fiscal folly and bureaucratic bumbling, will finally be put to use, according to a new plan released Thursday by Multnomah County commissioners.

The $58 million state-of-the-art facility has sat empty and unused for nearly five years following construction.

But the deal struck by Multnomah County commissioners means jail beds elsewhere will be lost, primarily at the Justice Center in downtown Portland.

In order to open Wapato, the commissioners had to save $18 million elsewhere. The decision means that 91 spots at the Justice Center facility will be left empty, resulting in a net gain of 31 beds once inmates occupy the Wapato facility.

Even though the Wapato facility will finally be used, it will be running at nowhere near capacity. Just 125 beds will be used, while the facility can house over 500 inmates.

Officials say 75 of the beds will be used to house inmates while another 50 will be used for inmates needing "treatment."

Multnomah County Commissioner Ted Wheeler called the initial limited use of Wapato a "starting point" that will allow them to begin operating the facility "without exposing the county to substantial financial risk" in case the local economy continues to falter.

Other financial moves include funding cuts for the Hooper detoxification center in Portland. County and city officials disagree about who should fund that facility.

Both city and county funding was up for 2007 following a strong economic boost, but officials are using the money in different ways.

Portland city officials already used their extra $33 million in the current budget. Multnomah County officials are using their $39 million influx to pay down debt.

No date for the admission of inmates to Wapato has been announced.