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New Bill Would Provide Civil Legal Attorneys To Oregon Women's Prison

<p>The Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon, opened in 2001.</p>
<p>The Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon, opened in 2001.</p>

A bill that would provide attorneys to Oregon’s only women's prison has passed the House and Senate and is currently awaiting Gov. Kate Brown’s signature.

The bill would provide the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC) funding for three full-time attorneys to create a civil legal program inside Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.

Bobbin Singh, executive director of OJRC, said it would be a unique program.

“Providing civil legal services inside of a prison, or at this scale where we have three full-time dedicated attorneys, is something that we just haven’t seen in other states or across the country,” Singh said.

The attorneys would be able to offer legal guidance to female prisoners. Singh said the program would also offer education and workshops at Coffee Creek.

This bill has been in the works for a while, Singh said.

“This is built off of five years of work the OJRC has already been doing through our women’s justice project, so we have been providing civil legal services to a small number of women at Coffee Creek,” he said. “Over the five years what we’ve really learned is there is a need and demand to assist women with civil legal, non-criminal, issues to help them with re-entry and help them come back into the community.

“So, what this bill does is help us build on that proof of concept and add more capacity to be able to serve more women.”

The program could begin as soon as July 1.

“I do think this is a paradigm shift that DOC [Department of Corrections] is in the middle of,” Singh said, “which is really trying to bring community services into the prison, and I think by working with them and us doing this, it’s something that can also be a model for the rest of the country.”

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting