New Oregon Prisons Chief Threatens "Multiple" Closures

Feb 15, 2012

SALEM, Ore. – The new head of the Oregon Department of Corrections says she's preparing to close multiple prisons in order to address a funding shortfall. Colette Peters announced the possible actions in an email to agency staff. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

It's not clear from the memo which prisons would close. But Peters says up to 1,800 inmates would be affected in the effort to address a $17 million budget hole. As many as 400 staff at the prisons would be laid off.

The inmates wouldn't be released -- they'd be transferred to other state prisons, where they'd be housed in, "temporary or emergency beds."

The possible closures dismayed the union that represents most prison guards. Mary Botkin of AFSCME says the Department of Corrections already houses hundreds of inmates in temporary beds.

"We're literally putting inmates in every nook and cranny that the institutions have," she says. "And it's not that people feel sorry for inmates, but the staff has to manage those inmates."

Peters, the agency head, noted in her email that nothing has been finalized. Meanwhile, lawmakers appear to be closer to moving ahead with a proposal to close one minimum security prison in Salem.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network