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So far this year, Sheriff Giusto has sprung more than 2,700 inmates--and a town that prides itself on its progressive image is confronting a crisis in public safety.
"The criminal justice system is teetering on the edge of collapse," fumes Mr. Giusto, whose own car was recently broken into in a lot across from his office, beneath a sign reading "Sheriff's Patrol."
What makes the sheriff's predicament particularly maddening is that a few miles away, on the north side of town, sits the answer to his prayers--a brand new $58 million jail known as the Wapato Facility. Secluded in an 18-acre parcel where sparrows chuckle in the cottonwood trees, Wapato is the last word in detention. Its 525 beds were designed for "direct supervision," a correctional philosophy in which there are no physical barriers between the inmates and the corrections officers who watch over them. The dorms comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The jail boasts its own power plant, kitchen, laundry and medical clinic, and the security glass in the central control room is two inches thick.
But the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, reeling from revenue shortfalls and paralyzed by infighting, has not given the sheriff the money to get the jail up and running. So while local newscasts air endless horror stories about crime and meth fiends, Wapato has yet to play host to a single inmate. Sheriff Giusto calls it "a $58 million echo chamber."