By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Last week, Governor Kate Brown asked the Department fo Correction to identify medically-vulnerable inmates who may be eligible for an early release from jail due to the risk of coronavirus.
The move is a sharp reversal from her position two months ago, when she said she would not allow any inmates to get out of jail early.
Gov. Brown outlined certain criteria inmates must meet for an early release, like being especially vulnerable to the virus.
But her announcement only impacts state penitentiaries, not county jails. The Deschutes County Jail said no one is getting out early.
Instead, to combat virus spread, jail staff is closely monitoring all inmate’s symptoms, according to Corrections Division Manager Captain Michael Shults. Shults said they’ve increased cleaning and social distancing guidelines within the jail.
The jail has also limited the people inside of the jail to only necessary workers and inmates who Shults said “need to be there.”
“We asked the courts and the DA’s to only bring those into our custody that really need to be there,” Shults said. “If they’re coming for one night, two nights and being released — do they even need to be there? We met with our partners and they agreed with us and we were able to get our numbers down to where it’s a manageable jail system right now.”
Deer Ridge, the state-run prison in Madras, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment regarding if any inmates there will be released early.
Deer Ridge has not had any positive COVID-19 cases. In contrast, the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem has 139 inmates and 36 staff members test positive for COVID-19.