Oregon’s most modern prison sits empty, unused since it was finished three years ago, reports The Oregonian. Taxpayers over the next two years will put more money than ever into the state prison system, but it won’t be enough. And the need will only grow as the state braces to add nearly 1,500 prisoners over the next four years. The corrections department is losing 223 positions. Programs to keep inmates from returning to prison are being weakened. Staff training on topics ranging from gang identification to mental health treatment is being reduced once again.
The prison system has relentlessly chewed into the state’s general fund, and its bite will be even bigger for the 2011-13 budget, which took effect last week. The $1.3 billion appropriated for prisons will take nearly a dime out of every general fund dollar spent on state government. “This is as tight a budget as we’ve ever been given,” said said corrections director Max Williams. Williams and legislators have their eye on forecasts showing the inmate population growing in the next four years, putting fresh strain on taxpayers.