Klickitat County may close jail, send inmates to NORCOR

A crowd waits in the county commissioners office prior to the start of the special Klickitat County Commissioners meeting March 29 in this screen capture.

Klickitat County is proposing to close down the Klickitat County Jail and transfer prison duties to the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional facility in The Dalles, commonly known as NORCOR. That was the outcome of a special county commissioner meeting held Friday March 29.
Board chair Lori Zoller opened the meeting by reading a statement:

“As the board chair and lead for this proposal, I put aside most of my work for some time now, as has my assisting staff to dedicate time to look at every angle of this most multifaceted problem seeking solid and vetted information and solutions.

“Throughout this process, we engaged with our legal counsel, state and federal agencies, and legal advice, and enlisted the assistance of our personnel and finance departments. I want to thank them all for the enormous time they have given to ensure we have carefully considered all items and information.
“Klickitat County has a moral and legal obligation to provide a safe environment for people housed in our jail. The public has repeatedly expressed their concerns over the sheriff’s inability to provide a humane and safe environment for inmates.

“As a county commissioner, I share their concerns and I believe an immediate change must occur. The Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility, known as NORCOR is a regional Correctional Facility Complex located in the Dows, Oregon.

“NORCOR is currently under contract providing services for Klickitat County juveniles. During my investigation time, I did complete a tour of NORCOR facility and held lengthy conversations with management staff.

“NORCOR is able and willing to contract with Klickitat County to provide jail services for adult inmates.”
Zoller then stepped down from her role as chair to propose a motion that prisoners be transferred to NORCOR no later than April 12.

Commissioner Dan Christoper argued that this whole idea was new to him and that he was not prepared to vote on such a sweeping issue without knowing any of the details.

“That is not the process. The process is the commissioners get together, talk. Distribute information, come up with their findings and then make a vote. I had absolutely no idea what this discussion was going to be about today.”

Commissioner Greg Anderson also made a statement:

“I will state publicly.” he said, “I stand in full agreement with Commissioner Zoller’s assertion that changes are indeed needed in the Klickitat County Jail. Events have underscored the urgent need for reform. And I am fully committed to addressing these issues head on. I want to express my unequivocal support for Commissioner Zoller’s discussions with NORCOR. It is clear that partnering with NORCOR presents a valuable opportunity to implement the necessary changes and improve the conditions within our correction system.

“Commissioners all have shown an unwavering dedication and leadership and advocating for the well-being of all individuals in our custody, and I have full faith in her ability to navigate these discussions effectively. Together, we will work tirelessly to ensure that our correction system reflects our values of compassion, empathy, and justice.”

Commissioner Christopher reacted by saying “When Commissioner Anderson says that he’s been behind you doing this the whole time, I wanna know how he knew you were doing this, because I sure didn’t, and I’ve attended every meeting.”

The other commissioners said that the fact that Zoller was investigating the jail situation had been mentioned in public session.

After some more parliamentary maneuvering, the Commission went into executive session for a half hour, which was later extended for another half hour.

Following the executive session, the Commission voted to engage in substantive talks with NORCOR.