jump to navigation

Committee Decries Cuts In Inmate Work Crews July 24, 2010

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Keeping the Powder River Correctional Facility off the state’s budget chopping block was a top priority at Wednesday’s Prison Advisory Council meeting, but the meeting also buzzed with criticism of a decision that curtailed some inmate work crews starting July 1.

“Our No. 1 priority is to protect the Powder River facility and staff,” said Fred Warner Jr., chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners. “We will fight all we can to keep Powder River. We will fight to our last breath to keep Powder River as the last minimum-security prison closed.”

Warner said the county’s second priority is to convince the Department of Corrections to resume the practice of having crews of Powder River inmates work for local nonprofits and public service agencies in the area for no charge, with the cost paid from the state general fund.

“We need to figure out how to get the inmates back out in the community working,” Warner said.

Ken Neff, director of operations at Powder River, said the state-subsidized inmate work crews were suspended July 1 in response to Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s June order that all state agencies trim 9 percent from their budgets to bridge an estimated $577 deficit for the two-year state budget cycle that ends June 30, 2011.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) initially proposed, in addition to ending subsidized work crews, closing Powder River and two other minimum-security prisons.

On June 9, Kulongoski rejected the proposal to close any prisons.

However, Neff said the other cuts took effect July 1, including the demise of the subsidized inmate work crews.

As an alternative, Neff said the governor directed DOC to make inmate crews available for hire at a rate of $458 for a 10-man crew for 8 hours, including DOC security staff; $543 for a 10-man crew for 10 hours; or $5.50 per day per inmate for host agencies when no DOC security staff is provided.

Peggy Timm of Baker City asked Neff how DOC can justify eliminating work crews, or making them too expensive for many nonprofits, considering Oregon voters approved Measure 17 in 1994, which requires inmates to work.

Neff said inmates will still do institutional work inside the prison.

In addition, some inmates still work for Oregon Corrections Enterprises operations, such as a Department of Motor Vehicles call center and a prison print shop.

In addition, Neff said educational and job training activities done by inmates while in prison also count as work under Measure 17.

Karen Yeakley, chairwoman of the Prison Advisory Committee, said treating Powder River inmates for drug and alcohol addictions and providing opportunities for them to work and get reconnected to the community are essential for rehabilitating inmates before they are released.

“The end result is we want good citizens,” Yeakley said.




no comments yet - be the first?