Oregon Prison Security Program Helps Cut Inmate Misconduct

Oregon has 840 inmates in an unusual Security Threat Management program that zeroes in on any inmate judged to be a safety threat at the state’s six biggest prisons, The Oregonian reports. It uses carrots and sticks: Improved behavior can lead to better jobs, better housing, and transfers to minimum-security prisons; misconduct can bring anything from confiscation of fashionable sneakers to a 120-day ban from the recreation yard.

The program aims to tame violence, extortion, and illegal trading in Oregon prisons. Last year, the department logged 2,302 assaults on inmates and staff, an average of six a day. Officials also want to reform more inmates so they’re released into society with plans for a productive life instead of more crime. Driving down the recidivism rate is crucial to curbing soaring prison costs. Some experts are aghast at Oregon’s decision to stop tracking what they consider critical information: membership in prison gangs. Analysis by The Oregonian found an inconclusive trend for assaults but a decline in inmate misconduct. Prison lieutenants at five prisons, plus counselors, inmates and union leaders, believe the program is reforming inmates and making prisons safer.

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