Overcrowding at Oregon's prison for women at Wilsonville has spurred a decision to reopen a women's facility at Salem.
SALEM— Overcrowding at Oregon's prison for women at Wilsonville has spurred a decision to reopen a women's facility at Salem.
The Coffee Creek Correctional Facility is packed with nearly 1,150 inmates. Prison managers are double-bunking inmates and using nearly 60 makeshift beds.
To ease overcrowding, corrections officials plan to shift some convicts to Salem in a fenced compound that formerly was the Oregon Women's Correctional Center.
The compound now operates as a 176-bed men's minimum-security prison next to the walled Oregon State Penitentiary, a maximum-security men's prison.
"We have a pretty immediate need to carve out some additional women's beds somewhere in the system," said Nathan Allen, planning and budget administrator for the Department of Corrections.
"That unit, based on its size and proximity here in Salem to some work opportunities for women, just made a lot of sense."
The state nearly a decade ago closed its crowded and obsolete prison for women in Salem. Tentative plans call for moving women back in September, said corrections spokeswoman Jeanine Hohn. Relocation for male inmates has not been determined.
"We're working out the details of it," Allen said.
"The men that are currently there would be relocated to other housing environments, probably in some temporary emergency beds somewhere in another existing facility."
The state prison system consists of 14 institutions, collectively housing about 14,000 inmates. Coffee Creek is the sole prison for women.
Five men's prisons operate in Salem: Oregon State Penitentiary and the adjacent minimum-security lockup, Oregon State Correctional Institution, Mill Creek Correctional Facility and Santiam Correctional Institution.
Corrections Department administrators recently proposed closing three prisons, including Mill Creek and Santiam, as part of a $52 million budget-cutting plan. Gov. Ted Kulongoski had ordered state agencies to slice 9 percent from the final 12 months of their 2009-11 budgets.
Kulongoski nixed the prison closures. He said he was not willing to commute sentences of nearly 1,000 convicted felons. Instead, the governor plans to ask the Legislative Emergency Board to use a reserve fund to cover the $15.3 million cost of keeping the three prisons open.