Frequently Asked Questions about JSIP

You have questions? We have answers. We’ve compiled frequently asked questions about the Justice System Improvement Program on this page.

Looking for information about the proposed bond measure 2-140?

View the Measure 2-140 FAQs page

If we focus on crime prevention and addressing the root causes of criminal behavior, why do we need a new jail?

  • A 2018 comprehensive assessment of Benton County’s criminal justice system concluded the jail is in poor physical condition and has operational deficiencies. 
  • The booking and observation/holding area cannot hold more than four people at once, creating a bottleneck that closes the jail to new arrivals. In 2022, the jail was closed 22 times.
  • Due to the current jail capacity, there are minimal treatment and rehabilitation opportunities for adults in custody; at times, up to half of adults in custody are sent to correctional facilities in other counties.
  • Benton County law enforcement agencies make extensive use of citation and release (versus transporting to jail) due to lack of capacity at the jail.

What is Benton County doing to prevent individuals from justice system involvement in the first place?

In 2021, voters passed the 5-year Public Health and Safety Local Option Levy. It funds various public health and law enforcement programs, including interventions in the justice system. Examples include:

  • Expanded pretrial services, offering an alternative to incarceration for low-risk offenders
  • Enhanced crisis response, including the Crisis, Outreach, Response, and Engagement (CORE) team
  • Staffing for the new Crisis Center
  • In addition, law enforcement staff have participated in training for response to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and Crisis Response Intervention Training

In what ways can local law enforcement and mental health service providers collaborate to reduce the need for more jail beds in the future?

The Justice System Improvement Program is a multi-disciplinary approach with coordination between government agencies, non-governmental service providers, and the community. 

  • The County launched the Crisis Outreach Response and Engagement (CORE) program in partnership with the Corvallis Police Department to provide trauma-informed care to those experiencing a mental health crisis. Benton County Behavioral Health partners with Corvallis Police Department (CPD) to respond to service calls related to mental health crisis. This results in more people getting supportive mental health treatment and resources, and fewer people spending time in the emergency room or jail due to mental health crisis.
  • The new Crisis Center—not part of the proposed bond measure—will be funded through state and federal grants. It will be a voluntary walk-in treatment-centered facility that may serve as an alternative to the emergency room, and provide stabilization for individuals experiencing mental health crisis, with referrals and support for ongoing behavioral health services. It will also serve as a resource for community partners, from non-profits to law enforcement agencies, who need help accessing behavioral health needs for clients and community members.
  • If passed, the proposed bond would fund a new correctional facility with dedicated areas to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment for adults in custody.

What determines when a person who is experiencing a mental health and/or substance abuse crisis goes to the crisis center versus jail?

  • If no crime has been committed, law enforcement may point the person to the Crisis Center with information on the resources available or could facilitate transport to the Crisis Center at the individual’s request and with their consent, depending on the circumstances at the time.
  • If a crime has been committed, the person may be released with a criminal citation and provided with Crisis Center information. Depending on the crime committed, such as a crime against a person, the individual would most likely be taken into custody and transported to the jail.
  • Until the Crisis Center is operational, if a person is a threat to themselves or others, they are taken into custody on a peace officer’s hold or to the hospital.

Why did Benton County Commissioners move forward with the acquisition of the Community Safety and Justice Campus site and construction of the new courthouse/District Attorney’s office?

Planning for improvements in the Benton County justice system has occurred over the last five years. Plans are based on recommendations from a comprehensive assessment and have been informed by extensive stakeholder input throughout the process.

  • The site selection for the Community Safety and Justice Campus was made following a review of more than 40 potential sites, with input from two advisory committees and more than 25 community presentations.
  • Acquisition of the campus site was required in order to proceed with planning for co-located county facilities.
  • The proposed campus is a 29.53-acre site, about one mile north of downtown Corvallis on Highway 20, near the City of Corvallis water treatment facility.
  • Proceeding with the construction of the new courthouse/District Attorney’s office was necessary to leverage a 50-percent state matching fund grant —more than $20 million— for the courthouse.

What will happen to the Historic Courthouse?

A Historic Courthouse Advisory Committee is developing repurposing options for the Board of Commissioner’s consideration. The committee expects to engage in public outreach this summer and to present its recommendations to the Commissioners in December 2023. Advisory committee meetings are open to the public.  

What are the current safety and accountability challenges in Benton County?

  • As of 2019, reported crime has increased 28% over the last five years, 33% of the people who are in jail are released because of lack of space, and 31% of the adults in custody could benefit from mental health treatment.
  • There is no dedicated space in the current jail for rehabilitative programs that address mental health, substance abuse, or education. 
  • Benton County’s current jail capacity per capita is the lowest in Oregon at 0.417 beds per 1,000 people. 
  • A 120-bed correctional facility is appropriate for Benton County based on multiple forecasting models. 

What are the current mental health challenges in Benton County?

  • Over the last decade, children and youth challenges have grown, with conditions from depression to substance use continuing to rise.
  • According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and the 2020 Oregon Student Health Survey, the rate of suicide among youth (10-24 years) has increased by 60% in the last decade. A quarter of all 11th graders reported having mental health needs that have gone unmet in the last year.
  • Benton County Behavioral Health reports that the current wait time for individuals seeking mental health therapy is three to four months.

What are the current homelessness services facility challenges and recommendations in Benton County?

  • There has been an 89% increase in people experiencing homelessness in Benton County since 2017.
  • In Corvallis, nearly 800 people received services from the Corvallis Daytime Drop Center last year. CDDC is the only low-barrier, drop-in resource navigation hub in Benton County.
  • Benton County and the City of Corvallis formed the Home, Opportunity, Planning, and Equity (HOPE) Advisory Board to address homelessness in Benton County. The proposed bond, if passed, would help fund the implementation of a core HOPE recommendation by dedicating funds to the development of a homelessness navigation center in Corvallis to help people build pathways out of homelessness. The County has requested state funds to complete the project.

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