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 at rates that would have been lower had Governor Brown released more prisoners who were deemed safe to leave prison and shelter in homes to avoid the virus.
Even though Oregonians in state prisons now have access to COVID-19 vaccines, Oregon's process for compassionate early medical release needs to be improved. Senate Bill 1568 (formerly known as Legislative Concept 142) would establish an independent Medical Release Advisory Committee (MRAC) of health professionals within the Board of Parole to 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. SB 1568 would greatly improve this process for inmates who have pressing medical needs that cannot be met by state prisons.
Read a factsheet on SB 1568 from our partners at Oregon Justice Resource Center for more information.
Find your state legislators' email address and phone number and encourage them to support SB 1568.
Here is a sample email/script:
I am contacting you to express my support for Senate Bill 1568, 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 have 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 1568 would create an independent Medical Release Advisory Committee of health professionals within the Board of Parole to make recommendations for inmate medical releases based on improved medical and public health criteria. Criteria would be phased in over time and the Board of Parole would still hold the final say. We must pass Senate Bill 1568 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 1568.
[Your name, city, ZIP code]