After escaping from the Clackamas County Jail, the murder suspect only had to hop a 12-foot fence and a soil berm to enter Hillendale Park.
“Many people don’t realize this jail shares a border with the park,” said Lee Eby, a Clackamas County sheriff’s captain since 2015 who’s the longest serving jail commander in the agency’s history.
Brian Allen Waybrant, who has since been sentenced to life in state prison for the aggravated murder of his 42 year-old uncle in Eagle Creek, broke his leg while jumping out of the jail’s outdoor recreation courtyard in Oregon City.
Waybrant was 20 years old at the time of his escape from the 450-person capacity jail. He snagged a basketball wrapped in bed sheets on razor wire two stories high above the recreation courtyard. From the razor wire, he was able to pull himself up to access the jail's roof where he ran from the facility.
In addition to the broken leg from jumping off the roof of the jail, Waybrant’s 2003 escape was hindered by his accomplice failing to show up to give him a ride. But he made it as far as Newell Creek Canyon before an OCPD canine and patrol officers took him into custody.
Clackamas County’s sheriff at the time put into place several security measures to thwart future escape attempts. The recreation yard was closed until additional razor wire was installed, along with cameras and a 360-degree view security observation platform at a total cost of about $10,000. Waybrant’s call to an accomplice for a ride would now be monitored by deputies, as are all non-attorney calls made from the jail.
All inmates are now searched each time they move in the facility, including before turnout in the recreation courtyard. Corrections staff received quarterly training in emergency events such as escapes, riot, fire, hazardous materials and natural disasters.
Searches at the jail are considerably easier since the recent installation of a electronic full-body scanner that can detect hidden contraband like tools, cell phones or drugs. No longer do jail staff require inmates to submit to body cavity searches conducted physically, which can now be conducted electronically.
Although escapes are now not as big of a concern for jail deputies, mental health and suicides have since come to the forefront. Clackamas County Lt. Jennifer Freeman said that the jail’s medical ward used to focus on dressing wounds and putting broken limbs in casts, but now it acts largely as a psychiatric ward and a detox facility for more acute withdrawal symptoms.
“Most people coming in here are coming off of some type of opiates or alcohol,” Freeman said.
Over the past decade, Freeman said jail transfers for psychiatric treatment to the Oregon State Hospital have increased tenfold. Judges can mandate psychiatric treatment at the state hospital in Salem, but once the inmate is transferred back to Clackamas County, jail staff can’t force inmates to take medications.
“It’s sad to watch inmates decline mentally if they refuse to take their medications,” Freeman said.
In response to recent suicides at the county facility, the jail has removed metal framed bunkbeds and has almost completed a project to replace them with solid fiberglass beds.
Recidivism is another huge problem for Clackamas County, as it is nationally. Of the over 10,000 people booked into the jail annually, 73% have been booked in this same jail before.
Clackamas County has been booking fewer inmates since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2022, there were about 10,800 jail bookings, compared to over 15,000 in 2019. The average stay at the jail is 14 days.
Freeman said that the jail’s Clackatraz nickname reflects the original 1950 building’s age, but subsequent expansions and renovations have proven that “it’s nothing like ‘Orange is the New Black’ in here.”
Freeman explained, “We are actively hiring and doing applicant tours so that people can see that working inside of the jail is nothing like what is shown on TV and it is a great place to work.”
Inmates can earn GEDs while incarcerated through a program at the jail’s library with Clackamas Community College.
Inmates volunteer to clean, cook and do the jail’s laundry, and those who participate earn time off of their sentences. Freeman said that 90% of the sheriff deputies assigned to the jail eat the food made by inmates because it’s known for being gourmet, with dishes like carne asada and shrimp scampi regularly on the menu.
Once released from jail, the county’s Transition Center is located adjacent to the building. Offering free food and bus passes, the center is open to the general public seeking assistance reentering the workforce or a housing case manager.
“We try to get them on the right track, but unfortunately Clackamas County doesn’t have a ton of resources, especially when it comes to housing,” Freeman said.
While there is a statewide shortage of affordable housing, for people convicted of arson or sex offenses, housing options are even tougher to come by.