About the same time the Umatilla County Community Correction's Program Center will close at the end of June, community corrections will be ready to open a new transition house for those moving from jail or prison life to civilian life.

The plan to have the new transition house has been in the works for three years, but closing the program center came about with the recent economic downturn and drop in state funding.

"It was our plan to have both," said community corrections Director Mark Royal.

The budget crunch forced the county to close the program center, which was funded by the state. Royal received approval from the county commissioners to close the program center last month and eliminate seven positions. The center will close on June 30.

Royal said cost estimates for the new building range from $300,000 to $400,000, with $100,000 paid by an Oregon Housing and Community Services grant. The remainder is money that has been saved from previous years.

"It's been in the works for three years," Royal said. "We set it aside two years ago. It's taken this long to get the program to actually happen."

He also said it's a one-time expenditure.

If community corrections were to use the $300,000 to keep the seven employees at the program center, it would only be a temporary solution, Royal said.

"We won't have ongoing resources to fund that at this time," he said. "We hope in the future that would change, but in the immediate future it doesn't appear to be likely."

A key difference between the program center and the transitional house will be supervision. At the program center, there is 24-hour supervision with locks on the doors, Royal said. At the transition house, there will likely be one offender who is called a house manager - someone community corrections trusts to keep an eye on the place. The county's work crew supervisor will also oversee the house.

The transition house is already built and waiting at the Modern Building Systems plant in Aumsville, just southeast of Salem. The county currently has a bid for proposals out asking for construction companies to prepare the site for the modular building near the Umatilla County Jail.

The transition house will be a 13-bed facility for men, with six two-bedroom dormitory rooms and a single room for the house manager.

A typical tenant of the transitional house - and tenant would be the right word, since they'll pay $150 to $200 rent - would be a man coming out of jail or prison who committed his crime in Umatilla County. These are people who would usually come back to the county anyway, but the transition house tenants are people without a place to stay, Royal said. A tenant would stay in the transitional house for 30 to 90 days, basically long enough for him to get a job and find a nicer place. The only exception would be the house manager.

Royal said the plan is to open the transition house in June.

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