County's unused jail a big hit with Hollywood

County's unused jail a big hit with Hollywood

PORTLAND, Ore. – Multnomah County has never used the taxpayer-funded $60 million Wapato Jail in North Portland, but Hollywood has found a use for it.

Producers of the web series, "The Record Keeper," love the spacious floor plan and the top-notch amenities. The jail, that's never been used as one, has a kitchen, office space and a lot more to make movie magic.

The 55 crew members look so happy and free, because they are. The photographs of the "inmates" on the wall aren't mug shots at all; instead, they're publicity head shots of the actors.

Multnomah County started building the jail in the 1990s to hold 500 prisoners, but by the time it was ready in 2004, the sentencing rules changed. Crime was down, and the only people who need it now carry cameras and scripts.

Dorm 8 never got used to house inmates, but the entire cast and crew of "The Record Keeper" found it's the perfect space to have lunch.

Producers rent the jail by the day. The county gets paid back for utilities, but taxpayers pay everything else - $300,000 a year to operate what's basically become a fake jail.

Is there anything else the building could be used for?

"Both the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and the Portland Police Bureau have used it for training," said county property manager Mark Gustafson. "If any of your viewers are in the market for a 170,000 square foot jail facility, have them call us."

Movie producers can use the jail so cheaply because the Oregon Film Board wants their business.

The county got about $12,000 last year – pennies compared to the $300,000 to maintain the facility. And until someone wants to buy it, there's no end in sight.