Oregon officials say they will need to open two mothballed prisons and build a new one to hold 2,000 inmates expected to join the current population over the next decade, reports The Oregonian. The cost by 2021: at least $608 million for construction and operating expenses. State corrections director Max Williams told a new state commission he would need $157 million to build a prison in Junction City, $20 million to equip prisons in Madras and Salem, and then up to $70 million a year in extra operating costs.
Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed a new Public Safety Commission to evaluate how public safety can be preserved with less-costly options than lengthy prison sentences. Measure 57, which imposes tougher sentences for property crimes, takes effect in January. Legislators had suspended the law, passed in 2008, to stop prison expansion. Now state forecasters say that within a year, hundreds of additional convicts will be sent to state prisons. At the same time, prisoners won’t be moving out as fast because a provision giving well-behaved inmates shorter sentences expires in July 2013. Prison officials said that “earned time” provision, put in place to save money, spared the prison system the need for an additional 300 beds.