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Oregon state prisons may end partnerships with community colleges

(Update: Adding video, more details on community college proposal)

For Adult Basic Education courses; Deer Ridge also has welding program

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Department of Corrections recently announced it is proposing to end its partnership with the state's community colleges and move its Adult Basic Education programs in-house.

Currently, the department is in partnership with six community colleges around the state to help educate inmates at 14 institutions with basic education and GED completion services.

Jennifer Kovitz, director of marketing and public relations for Central Oregon Community College, told NewsChannel 21 Monday that the community colleges which partner with DOC were notified in mid-August of the potential decision to end the partnership, due to a budget shortfall.

During 2018- 2019, COCC helped educate nearly 225 adults in custody at the Deer Ridge Correctional Institution near Madras through the Adult Basic Education program. In addition, 92 inmates participated in the GED completion program.

COCC also offers the inmates at Deer Ridge a one-year welding certificate through the partnership, and the future of the program is unknown.

Kovitz said the state's community colleges want to stress that the programs are working well for Oregon's inmates.

"Oregon is fourth across the 50 states for GED completion rates among adults in custody, Kovitz said. "So we are proud of the work that is happening at COCC, Deer Ridge and the other community colleges across the state."

The Associated Press reported that during the pandemic, some contractors were unable to enter institutions to continue the Adult Basic Skills program. The DOC is planning to hire staff to continue their education program in- house, in the event another major disaster or operational restriction occurs.

AP also reports the Oregon DOC was already experiencing a budget shortfall of $110 million before the pandemic, which led to $25 million in layoffs.

Kovitz said although the learning program was delayed for two months due to COVID-19, completion rates at Deer Ridge went right back up when they resumed the program.

She said they are hoping to find a way to keep the partnership going. She added that the welding program at Deer Ridge offered by COCC also has been extremely successful.

"Most of our inmates who receive their welding certificate come out of that program with a job," Kovitz said. "They are actually being placed with employers successfully, prior to leaving the correctional facility."

The DOC is requiring each community college to come up with a unified, standardized education program in order to continue partnerships by next week. That includes uniformity of compensation to colleges, hours of education, year-round programming and more.

The community colleges have until Oct. 14 to submit their unified proposed program.


News release from the Oregon Education Association:

OEA: Oregon Department of Corrections Proposal will Leave Learners Behind

The Department of Corrections has tried, and failed, to save money by cutting education programs before

PORTLAND, OR – Following the Oregon Department of Corrections proposal to end their relationship with Oregon’s community colleges and, rather than utilizing the talents of trained Oregon educators, move their Adult Basic Education program “in-house,” Oregon Education Association President John Larson released the following statement:

“For years, the Oregon Department of Corrections has worked collaboratively with faculty members at our state community colleges to develop and implement Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs at Oregon correctional facilities. This relationship gave the ABE population access to professionally trained educators and resulted in Oregon maintaining one of the highest GED completion rates for correctional institutions in the nation. The DOC’s recent proposal to end this critical relationship threatens years of progress that have been made at our correctional facilities and will leave adult learners behind.”

Maintaining strong education programs in Oregon’s correctional facilities is a critical component to reducing recidivism and reincarceration. The 2014 RAND Study found that adults in custody who participate in educational programming are 13% more likely to gain employment upon release than those who do not participate and are 43% less likely to be reincarcerated. Moreover, when DOC last brought their Adult Basic Education program ‘in-house’ at Oregon State Penitentiary from 2003-2006, successful completion of programs declined by about 50% while seeing costs rise. This is not the solution.

The Oregon Education Association urges the Department of Corrections to reverse course and withdraw its proposal to radically alter its Adult basic Education programming.

Bend / Central Oregon / Crime And Courts / Education / Government-politics / Madras / Top Stories
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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.

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3 Comments

  1. The competency with which these programs are operated with cannot be tolerated, it creates unrealistic expectations for the rest of The Oregon Department of Corrections.

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