SALEM — Despite a $55 million investment in programs to reduce the prison population, the Department of Corrections is poised to spend $4 million before fall to add beds at two minimum-security institutions.
The legislative Emergency Board approved the additional allocation to the Department of Corrections May 25.
The money will pay for additional staff and security equipment at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution in Madras and prepare the mothballed Oregon State Penitentiary-Minimum in Salem to accept female inmates.
The department already received $2.5 million in February to move 787 male inmates from a minimum-security facility to a larger vacant medium-security building at Deer Ridge, where there is room to add more beds. Another $3 million approved last month will pay security equipment to complete the move and add 200 beds to the prison. The Emergency Board also approved 33 additional positions at the prison to serve the additional anticipated inmates.
Another $1 million was approved to pay for the process of reopening the Oregon State Penitentiary-Minimum in Salem — an annex of the Oregon State Penitentiary, which was mothballed in 2010 to save money during the recession. Opening the annex will relieve pressure from the state’s only women’s prison, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.
The threshold number of inmates that can safely be housed at Coffee Creek is 1,280, said Colette Peters, director of the Department of Corrections. The facility is currently operating with 110 emergency beds. Its population hovers just above or below the threshold on a daily basis, Peter said. The April 2016 prison population forecast projects the average daily women’s population to exceed 1,300 as early as June 2017.
The Department of Corrections could request another $9.5 million in September to actually open the minimum security annex and accept female prisoners. The department also anticipates requesting another $3.9 million in the fall to fully staff Deer Ridge and add another 100 beds, Peters said.
DOC’s biennial budget failed to account for the cost because the state projection for the inmate population ballooned in the past year. The April forecast projects the prison population to grow from 14,636 this year to 15,319 by March 2026.
The Justice Reinvestment Fund was created in House Bill 3194 in 2013 to give resources to counties to set up support services for offenders on probation and parole. The bill also restructured the state’s sentencing guidelines to try to ebb the flow of offenders into the prison system.
The Criminal Justice Commission divvied up $15 million from the fund in 2013-14. About $40 million was earmarked for the fund for 2015-16. The $9.5 million expansion at Deer Ridge would come out of the $40 million amount.
Peters said the Justice Reinvestment program is working. Without it, she said the department would have needed to build a new prison at Junction City this year and opened it next year.