UPDATE: SB 520 is now in ways and means! Read on for Action Items!
Over the last few years, one of the many injustices that the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted is how prisons fail to protect the health of adults in custody. Crowded prisons with insufficient access to masks and hygiene infrastructure have caused Oregonians in prison to become sick and die from COVID-19.People with histories of incarceration are already in worse physical and mental health according to research by the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services.
To make matters worse, for people who are seriously or terminally ill Oregon’s process for compassionate medical release from prison is not fit for purpose. We’ve learned that between 2013 and 2020 more people died in prison waiting for a decision on their release application than were actually released. Only nine were able to complete the process and were released. Despite our state’s aging prison population, we do not have a humane and effective system in place to handle release of individuals whose continued incarceration does not serve them or our community. Current criteria for early medical release are too narrow, requests are not reviewed by medical professionals, and the application process is inaccessible and slow.
Fortunately, we have a plan to improve Oregon’s process for compassionate medical release. Senate Bill 520 will establish an independent Medical Release Advisory Committee (MRAC) of health professionals within the Board of Parole and make recommendations for inmate medical releases based on medical and public health criteria. SB 520 will greatly improve the process for adults in custody who have pressing medical needs that cannot be met by state prisons. The final decision on release will remain with the Board of Parole who can deny release if there is a public safety concern.
Take Action for Early Compassionate Medical Release!
Write a Letter to the Editor In Support of Compassionate Release Reform
Read the factsheet on SB 520 from our partners at Oregon Justice Resource Center below for more information.