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Lawmakers OK funds for 200 more Deer Ridge prison beds


Three months after nearly 800 Deer Ridge Correctional Institution minimum-security inmates were moved from their previous quarters to the larger, long-mothballed medium-security facility, state lawmakers have approved another $3 million for more security equipment and to add 200 more inmate beds, as well as 33 more staff.

The legislative Emergency Board approved that among other expenditures by the state Department of Corrections on May 25, the East Oregonian reported. The 33 new personnel have have a full-time equivalent of nearly 19 new staff, said department spokeswoman Elizabeth Craig.

Craig said that in February, DOC requested $9.5 million for Deer Ridge, to shift the inmates into the medium-security facility and open 200 more beds. Lawmakers funded $2.5 million of that request in order to make the shift.

Last month, based on the prison population forecast, the department requested the remaining $7 million from the legislative Emergency Board to expand by 200 beds in the medium-security facility, now operating as a minimum-security prison. The E-Board funded $3 million of that $7 million request.

“The $3 million will enable us to ready the facility, but the majority of the $3 million will go to staffing,” Craig said. “We have started the hiring process, but we do not have a target date for filling positions – the positions will be phased in throughout the remainder of the biennium.”

The inmates’ move in late February to the adjacent building at the prison east of Madras came as state prison population forecasts are on the rise. In April, the forecast projected the state’s prison population to grow from 14,636 this year to 15,319 by March of 2026.

The state also may seek to add 100 more beds at Deer Ridge later they, but Craig said they are not sure if that will happen — “we are waiting to see what happens with the prison population. If we do need those 100 beds, we would most likely open them at Shutter Creek Correctional Institution in North Bend, not at Deer Ridge.”

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