Oregon to close prison, lay off 63 workers in $2.5 million budget cut

Oregon to close prison, lay off 63 workers in $2.5 million budget cut
Published: Thursday, September 30, 2010, 10:13 PM
By Les Zaitz, The Oregonian

For the first time in its history, Oregon will shut down an operating prison as part of a $2.5 million budget cut that lays off 63 people, relocates 120 prisoners and ends alcohol and drug treatment for 50 of those inmates.
By the end of the month, the state Corrections Department will shutter the Salem minimum-security prison it operates in the shadow of the Oregon State Penitentiary. The smaller, 176-bed unit opened in 1964 as the state’s first women’s prison.

The closure means 35 state workers will lose their jobs. At the same time, the Corrections Department is laying off an additional 28 workers, including nine at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution in Madras where most were hired in anticipation of opening 1,228 medium-security beds. That move is postponed indefinitely.
Corrections officials say three of the layoffs will come out of the inspector general’s office, which handles internal investigations, including abuses by staff, inmate crimes and drug trafficking within the state’s 14 prisons.

Agency officials say they also are giving back funding for 13 jobs currently vacant. Together, the 76 job cuts will save the agency $2.5 million out of a $1 billion budget.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has twice ordered state agencies to make across-the-board cuts because the state expects to collect $1 billion less than expected for its current two-year budget, which ends next June. The governor’s order has triggered layoffs at several state agencies, but many have reduced spending by not filling vacant jobs.

Some agencies expect to announce additional layoffs in the coming months, said Lonn Hoklin, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative Services.

Last week, legislators said they would find money to prevent such deep cuts to Corrections that prisoners had to be released. Earlier this summer, Corrections Department Director Max Williams projected that he would have to free 1,000 inmates if his agency had to take cuts as deep as other state operations. Kulongoski has steadfastly refused any option that would force that step.

Williams notified his staff of 4,400 in an email Wednesday that layoff notices had been delivered. He said it was “worth noting that we have been careful to ensure that position eliminations are distributed among both represented and non-represented staff, from both institutions and administrative offices .”

But the eye-opening development is closure of the medium security prison. Kulongoski has vowed not to cut his prison agency so much that it had to free inmates.

Read more here.

Staff writer Michelle Cole contributed to this report.