NORTH BEND, Ore. -- Leaders in Coos County are disappointed and figuring out their next steps after Governor Kate Brown proposed closing the Shutter Creek Correctional Institution in North Bend, a move viewed as a major economic blow to a small town.
Shutter Creek is a 302-bed minimum security prison which employs more than 100 people. Under Brown’s 2021-2023 proposed budget, three of Oregon’s 14 prisons would close. The governor’s office said the prisons aren’t needed because fewer people are being put behind bars. But more importantly, closing the three prisons would save the state nearly $44 million.
Coos County Commissioner John Sweet is concerned about the proposed closure and what it means for the jobs the correctional institution brings to town.
“It’s not good for our area. We’re kind of a high-poverty area. Those are good jobs. We have people and families that live here that depend on those jobs,” Sweet said. “What are they going to do should that be shut down?”
Commissioner Melissa Cribbins called the proposed closure “shortsighted” and said she will encourage residents to write letters and speak out against the proposal, as they did when the facility was first put on the chopping block earlier this year.
“It will be a major impact to an area that’s already been hard hit by COVID and we already know the rural areas take much longer than the urban areas to recover from economic downturns,” Cribbins said.
Cribbins said she has received calls and letters from concerned mothers who live in the area for the express purpose of visiting loved-ones incarcerated at the facility.
“They lived here in this area because they wanted to be able to see their kids,” Cribbins said.
The facility also provides a variety of services, including wildland fire and camp support crews which Cribbins said were instrumental in suppressing a wildfire over the summer.
“I know the governor has to cut the budget, but I wish she would not pick on rural areas to do so,” Sweet said.
The closures would happen over the next two years, if approved. The budget will be considered by lawmakers when they convene in Salem in January.