PORTLAND – A plan to open a second women’s prison in Oregon is facing a major setback as lawmakers have rejected a request for funding for the project.
A legislative subcommittee recommended that the Emergency Board turn down a request by Oregon Corrections Director Colette Peters for $3.8 million to prepare a former prison in Salem for inmates next year, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The Emergency Board meets when the Legislature is not in session to consider agency requests for money. The board is scheduled to consider the prison funding on Wednesday but it would be atypical for the full board to reject a subcommittee recommendation.
The Coffee Creek Correctional Institution in Wilsonville has exceeded its inmate capacity since May 18. Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed budget for the next biennium includes $17.5 million to operate the Salem prison on the grounds of the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Lawmakers said they’re wary of spending money on a second prison, especially as the state faces a $1.7 billion shortfall in the state budget. Some lawmakers said they should instead take steps to contain the growth of the female prison populations.
Oregon’s incarceration rate of women tripled between 1994 and 2015.
Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland, said now is the time to curb prison population growth, not fund new prisons.
“I am not prepared to support this today,” he said. “It just strikes me that this country incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.”
Brown’s spokesman Bryan Hockaday said the governor said the recommendation to reject the funding request reflects a growing consensus that inmate population trends must be addressed. He said Brown remains hopeful that the state can avoid opening a second prison.
Elizabeth Craig, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said the department will discuss the possibility of sending some female inmates to out-of-state prisons.
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