Oregon prison system, facing escalating costs, cutting employees but no corrections officers

SALEM – Oregon’s prison system is laying off employees and cutting other costs as it faces a $60 million budget deficit.

Colette Peters, director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, advised the agency’s employees of the circumstances in an email message Wednesday night.

Agency officials said 24 jobs would be eliminated but no corrections officers who provide security in the state’s 14 prisons. The agency has about 4,700 employees

Peters attributed the move to unexpected increases in costs to treat inmates for Hepatitis C, out-of-prison medical care, and pharmacy expenses.

The prison system is currently treating 711 inmates, now known as adults in custody, for Hepatitis C. In 2016, 101 were being treated. The agency projects it will be treating 1,100 by the end of the current budget cycle, which ends in June 2021.

She said $10 million in prison repairs such as roof and heating systems was being delayed.

“We have proposed several substantial reductions to our services and supplies budget along with travel reductions, a hiring freeze and reduction in training,” Peters said. “These changes are not enough to bridge the gap.”

She said the Corrections Department “found it necessary to execute an employee layoff plan” and affected employees had been notified. She said layoffs would be completed by June.