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Oregon Justice Resource Center Dissatisfied with Proposed Plans for Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

25 Nov 2023, Jail News, by

The advocacy group questions the OR Department of Corrections response to Coffee Creek Correctional Facility issues in a call for reform.

Oregon Justice Resource Center Dissatisfied with Proposed Plans for Coffee Creek Correctional Facility - Inmate Lookup

The Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC), an advocacy group focused on incarcerated individuals, has expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed plans of the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) to address treatment and conditions at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF), the state’s sole women’s prison.

OJRC sent a letter to Governor Tina Kotek on November 14. The group expressed their disappointment in the corrections department’s response to documented harsh conditions at the Wilsonville prison, as revealed in a state-commissioned report from August. The report exposed a retaliatory environment that discouraged the reporting of wrongdoing, including sexual misconduct, and identified a punitive, military-like atmosphere within the prison.

Following the report, Governor Kotek directed the corrections agency to implement short-term changes to improve conditions, while a long-term strategy was developed in closed-door advisory panel meetings. The planned changes include providing sports bras for women, increasing security cameras, and enhancing communication about improvements. CCCF is also set to introduce more classes and group activities, such as music bands, yoga, Narcotics Anonymous, and Alcoholics Anonymous.

However, the Oregon Justice Resource Center contends that these proposed measures are inadequate, emphasizing that they do not proportionately address the severity of the conditions at Coffee Creek.

The group calls for an end to solitary confinement, citing the state’s own report that labeled the segregation unit as “one of the least dignified” places in the prison.

Elisabeth Shepard, a spokesperson for Kotek, declined to confirm the governor’s satisfaction with the agency’s response. The office is currently reviewing the letters from the OJRC and the ODOC about the proposed plans.

The OJRC specifically urges the ODOC to terminate the use of solitary confinement, citing the state’s own report that characterizes the segregation unit as “one of the least dignified” areas in the prison. If solitary confinement persists, the OJRC advocates for the elimination of three phone booth-sized cages used during de-escalation attempts and calls for an end to the dehumanizing use of a tether when moving incarcerated women within the segregation unit.

Additionally, the OJRC recommends putting a stop to the use of military titles for staff and the practice of addressing incarcerated women by their last names, yelling at them, and issuing military-style orders.

As of now, the OJRC has not received a response to their recommendations, according to Bobbin Singh, the executive director of the OJRC. He expresses hope that Governor Kotek will review the suggestions and engage with the ODOC to understand why certain changes cannot be implemented.

Amber Campbell, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Corrections, did not confirm whether the agency considers the OJRC’s ideas workable. The agency is currently in the process of working on the action items submitted to Governor Kotek.

The Oregon Justice Resource Center further emphasizes the need for improved communication for inmates in segregation, allowing them to call and update family members. The current disciplinary system, which inhibits phone use for 14 days during segregation, is criticized. The OJRC advocates for a revamped disciplinary system that avoids punishing inmates seeking updates and assistance, especially for medical care.

The advocates also stress the importance of ceasing strip searches and double-shackling inmates returning from medical appointments outside the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. These practices are seen as deterrents to seeking medical care. Additionally, they urge a response to suicidal tendencies through mentorship and prompt medical attention rather than resorting to segregation.