Ore. county releasing inmates amid budget cuts

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- A cash-strapped county in Oregon's timber region is releasing inmates it can't afford to keep behind bars after residents rejected a property tax hike to close a $12 million budget gap.

The Josephine County sheriff's office is freeing 40 inmates Wednesday from the Grants Pass jail, among them people charged with robbery, assault, rape and other sex crimes.

The sheriff was forced to cut the jail population by half as a federal subsidy for timber-dependent counties ends.

To plug the budget hole, the county is laying off 70 people in the sheriff's office by Friday. The cuts bring staff to levels probably not seen since the region was settled during the 1850s Gold Rush.

With the layoffs, the sheriff says the remaining 18 guards can manage only about 60 inmates.