Oregon won’t close two prisons, will limit use of force by officers

Here's some of what happened during Monday's special session
Governor Kate Brown mask
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown adjusts her face mask Tuesday, August 11, 2020 before addressing the press about the outcome of Monday's special session. (Facebook)
Governor Kate Brown

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Governor Kate Brown spoke Tuesday about the results of — and her opinions about — the state’s second special session.

The Oregon Legislature on Monday cut roughly $400 million across state agencies and used about $400 million in emergency funds from the Education Stability Fund while addressing a billion-dollar budget hole due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

Gov. Brown said she was disappointed that lawmakers did not follow through with plans to close two state prisons. The plans were to close rural facilities Shutter Creek Correctional Institution near Coos Bay and Warner Creek Correctional Facility near Lakeview. The governor argued the state could safely close prisons with “more challenging conditions” and still keep communities safe.

“We should be focusing on preventing crime, investing in drug and alcohol treatment, and other strategies to help people that are caught up in the criminal justice system and help society as a whole,” said the governor.

Prison bed costs $39,000-$50,000 a year, according to Brown, who said she felt that money could be better spent on early childhood education.

She was pleased, however, that lawmakers continued investments in K-12 and early childhood education by keeping their hands off the $9 billion state school fund.

“The public health crisis will require many schools to implement comprehensive distance learning. In this environment, it’s even more important than ever that we invest in our kids and their schools and that we fund our future,” Gov. Brown said.

Lawmakers further restricted police choke holds during the day-long session. Lawmakers passed House Bill 4301, prohibiting the use of choke holds by police or corrections officers except for self defense as defined by law.

Brown said the action will tightly limit use of force by police officers, calling it “a much-needed step toward police reform.” Five police-reform bills were passed in the previous special session.

Also passed Monday:

SB1703 – Helping the Revenue and Employment departments to share data in order to get medical claims processed more quickly
SB701 – Making sure people who make a small amount of income from a part-time job are still able to get unemployment benefits