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Oregon lawmakers propose plan for releasing inmates

Lawmakers hope the governor considers their plan.

Posted: Jun 15, 2020 7:12 PM

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Some Oregon lawmakers have proposed a plan for how inmates could be released to slow the spread of coronavirus in state prisons. 

They hope Gov. Kate Brown considers their plan as she weighs the situation.


In the letter to the director of the Department of Corrections, Brown recognized the overwhelming challenge of enforcing social distancing in a prison setting.

The state DOC was asked to perform an analysis of inmates who are vulnerable to the coronavirus and meet the outlined criteria for possible commutation.

However, lawmakers are hoping Brown considers releasing inmates in three groups based on their vulnerability, how much time is left on their sentence and if they’ve secured housing after release.

Inmates who are considered for Group A have served at least 50% of their sentence. Also, DOC have identified them as higher risk due to underlying medical conditions. Lawmakers said there are 123 inmates who have qualified for Group A.

Those who are considered for Group B have four to six months left on their sentence. Also, these inmates have secured housing after they’re released. Legislators said there are 473 inmates who qualify for this group.

Inmates who are considered for Group C are also those who have four to six months left on their sentence. However, these are the inmates who haven’t secured housing after they’re released. Lawmakers said there are 1,078 inmates in this group.

“We need to look at decompressing our prisons,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow. “COVID remains a problem for everyone and it is likely to get worst in the fall.”

Dembrow said there are a number of other things that they’ve considered in their plan.

  • All inmates who are selected to be released will be tested for COVID-19 before they go
  • All victims will be notified before the inmate is released
  • Inmates in Alternative Incarceration Programs will be prioritized for early release
  • DOC will provide weekly decompression status reports to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees
  • The Emergency Board will identify CARES Act and other federal funding to help DOC and Community Corrections facilitate this program.
  • Adhering to all of CDC’s recommendations to prevent the spread

Dembrow said every inmate would still be released on a case-by-case basis. He also said inmates who were convicted for serious crimes under Measure 11 would not be considered.

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