In 2020, one of the many injustices that COVID-19 spotlighted was how prisons fail to protect the health of adults in prison custody. Crowded prisons with insufficient access to masks and hygiene infrastructure caused Oregonians in prison to become sick and die from COVID-19 at rates that would have been lower had Governor Kate Brown released more prisoners who were deemed safe to leave prison and shelter in homes to avoid the virus.
Even now that Oregonians in state prisons have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, we have learned that Oregon's process for compassionate early medical release needs to be improved. Senate Bill 835 will establish an independent Medical Release Advisory Committee (MRAC) of health professionals that would sit within the Board of Parole and make recommendations for inmate medical releases based on medical and public health criteria. Current criteria for early medical release are too narrow, requests are not reviewed by medical professionals, and the application process is inaccessible and slow. Senate Bill 835 will greatly improve this process for inmates who have pressing medical needs that cannot be met by state prisons.
Read a factsheet on SB 835 from our partners at Oregon Justice Resource Center for more information.
Please use this link to find your state legislators' email address and phone number and let them know that you support Senate Bill 835.
Here is a sample email/script:
I am writing to express my support for Senate Bill 835, which would greatly improve Oregon's process of compassionate early medical release from prisons. Some health conditions cannot be well managed inside of Oregon's prisons, and all Oregonians have a right to access the medical care and treatment that they need. We learned during the COVID-19 crisis that prisons are often not well-equipped to care for public health.
Right now, requests for early medical release are difficult to submit and aren't reviewed by medical professionals. Senate Bill 835 would create an independent Medical Release Advisory Committee (MRAC) of health professionals that would sit within the Board of Parole and make recommendations for inmate medical releases based on greatly strengthened medical and public health criteria. Criteria would be phased in over time and the Board of Parole will still hold the final say. We must pass Senate Bill 835 this session so that we can begin implementing an improved, health-based approach to caring for Oregonians who are serving prison sentences.
Health care is a human right for all - please support Senate Bill 835.
[Name, Town, ZIP code]