Protecting Health in Oregon State Prisons


Oregon PSR began this past May to advocate for Oregon state prisoners out of concerns relative to the COVID-19 pandemic and the dire consequences of a deadly outbreak in our state prisons. Since then, we’ve written several letters to the Governor’s office, which manages the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), and have partnered with Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC) for the recent Mass Incarceration and Public Health webinar to better educate ourselves and others on the issues facing Oregon state prisons and the communities that live within them. We will be partnering with OJRC, which continues to advocate for prisoners around the state and provides resources regarding incarceration issues, for more webinars in the near future, including one on the intersections of climate change and mass incarceration.

The recent wildfires in Oregon and the rest of the West Coast continue to cause disruptions and despair, and that has been no different for many incarcerated communities and those who serve them. As wildfires closed in, thousands of incarcerated people were transferred from already crowded and unsafe prisons to extremely overcrowded prisons. Since these emergency evacuations, COVID-19 cases and deaths have significantly increased in several of our state prisons. We are advocating for an independent third-party investigation into the inhumane conditions that many incarcerated people were placed under throughout these evacuations, which would allow ODOC an opportunity to be better prepared for any further prison evacuations in the future.

We will continue to advocate for safer conditions for those incarcerated in Oregon prisons, and we will continue to find ways that our supporters can join us in this work to protect the health of all Oregonians.

Photo above: Inside an Oregon state prison. Photo courtesy of KGW News.

This article was written by Lluvia Merello, Oregon PSR’s Energy Justice Organizer.