Clatsop County Circuit Court Judge Cindee Matyas sentenced a woman busted for using intravenous drugs in the county's Transition Center to 45 days in the county jail Friday.

Leah Jean Sharpe, 28, of Seaside, faced the possibility of 21/2 years in prison for a previous conviction on heroin possession.

She and two other female residents at the facility were caught using OxyContin intravenously.

The facility was intended for low-level offenders who might be sentenced to several weeks or months in the county jail, but are released after a few days because of overcrowding.

Sharpe has the prison time hanging over her head for a prior conviction of possession of heroin. During sentencing for that conviction, Sharpe and her attorney agreed to a stipulation that because her crime was severe enough, she would go to prison for 29 to 34 months if her probation were revoked.

Clatsop County Deputy District Attorney Beau Peterson recommended revocation of probation for Sharpe to the court Friday.

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said Monday that you can't simply be sentenced to prison for possession charges in Oregon - you have to agree to prison time.

Sharpe has violated her probation three times and the facility has sanctioned her twice. Sanctions are penalties administered within the facility. Marquis said prosecutors often don't even hear about the violations and the sanctions imposed by operators of the facility.

At Sharpe's hearing Friday, Peterson asked her probation officer, Barry Hazel, if she had used the drug at the facility.

"She did use at the Transition Center," Hazel replied.

Peterson argued that Sharpe's repeated probation violations show she doesn't seem to be benefiting from probation - this was her third probation violation since being sentenced for heroin possession.

Matyas said Sharpe put the court in a terrible position. "This is terrible. This is just terrible," Matyas said during the hearing. "I don't know whether you can be trusted again. I don't know what more to say about that.

"Mr. Hazel - I can't imagine why he wants to work with you. You deserve to go to prison. You've been given lots of breaks already. Either you'll make it, or you won't."

Matyas reluctantly agreed to follow the probation officer's recommendation and sentenced Sharpe to 45 days in jail, without the possibility of alternative sanctions like the Transition Center. That's the 14th time Sharpe has landed in the county jail.

"Any slip-up - any at all - means you'll go to prison," Matyas said. "I guess we'll give you this last shot."

Marquis said jail does two things better than the Transition Center. It separates users from their drugs. And it sends a message to them: There's going to be punishment, not rehabilitation.

He said even though prosecutors weren't able to get lengthy sentences for drug violations, downtown Astoria is a prime example of how effective that message can be.

"What the drug community learned was the tolerance for drugs was zero," he said.


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